Our Research Design

  • Sustainable High performance is an impressive achievement.
  • Like successful athletes in sport, individuals need to find a balance between exertion - high performance – and periods of relaxation and regeneration. Our research aims at understanding how high performers succeed to maintain their level of performance and to balance demands and periods of rest.
  • Our research program endeavours to reverse the conventional approach of identifying risk-factors deemed responsible for the origin stress-related illnesses. In the tradition of salutogenesis we seek to understand what allows some people to thrive in a demanding environment 

Research objectives

  • Transformation of work: In which ways continues ICT to transform the modern workplace?
  • Craftsmanship in the digital age:
    1. In what ways is sustainable high performance the result of a skilful coping and balancing of demands and resources?
    2. What are challenges to learn, develop or exert this kind of craftsmanship?
  • Cultivating sustainable work systems: how do and how should companies act to establish a work system that is regenerating rather than consuming its human resources?

Method

Our approach is to combine physiological measurements (HRV) with qualitative data gathering techniques (e.g. personal diaries, in-depths interviews, or focus groups). The physiological component of our research design consits of small bio-sensor devices that would record the variation of intervals between two heartbeats over 24 hours (RR interval variation or heart rate variability (HRV)). This variation describes the ability of the body to constantly adjust the time interval from one heart beat to the next based on stimuli of the autonomic nervous system. It has been found to be a valid indicator of chronic stress and well-being (Togo & Takahashi, 2009). It allows us to identify periods of the day that were physiologically stressful as well as review the quality of phases of recovery, i.e. sleep.

Yet, in order to become meaningful, HRV data needs to be contextualized. For this purpose we rely on the qualitative data.

Insights

In our research we have found individuals who are thriving and delivering sustainable high performance even under demanding conditions. Like successful athletes in sport, these individuals succeed to find a balance between exertion - high performance – and periods of relaxation and regeneration. Thus we cannot subscribe to the equation smarter work == unhealthy work. Yet we need to acknowledge that sustainable high performance is an impressive achievements that combines a number of factors both from the individual as well as from the (organizational) context.