Google gDNA Study Continues Looking at the Field of Work

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Two years ago Google's People Innovation Lab began its first long-term study on the field of work, called gDNA, with the purpose of gaining a better comprehension on how to foster a great work environment and acquire high-performing employees, as well as determining the effect happiness has on work and the effect work has on happiness.

According to a blog post by Google's People Operations senior vice president Laszlo Bock in the Harvard Business Review, the idea for this analysis on work was inspired by a longitudinal study on the subject of heart disease started by doctors in Massachusetts more than 65 years ago. Known as the Framingham Heart Study, it has become a data source not only for heart disease but weight loss, genetics and happiness too.

The gDNA study involves distributing two in-depth surveys each year to a randomly selected and representative group of more than 4,000 Google employees. Participation is both optional and confidential.

The surveys, through the use of scientifically validated questions and measurement scales, collect information from employees about their innate characteristics and their surroundings -- both of which factor into how employees experience work. This includes questions about traits that are static such as personality; characteristics that can change such as attitudes about culture and co-workers; and how employees fit into their working environment.

One major issue concerning work that this study has provided, and will continue to provide insight on, is balancing work and one's personal life. The first rounds of the study found that just 31 percent of those surveyed are able to draw a clear line between work and their personal lives, without worrying about work-related things when they are out of the office. These people are referred to as "segmentors."

For "integrators," which made up 69 percent of the people surveyed during the initial rounds, work is constantly on their minds. Half of these integrators revealed that they want to be able to separate their work from their personal lives but find it difficult to do so.

In the blog, Bock said he hopes this study will help Google understand problems faced by employees and hopefully come up with ways to solve them. For instance, in the case of balancing work and home lives, Google could create environments that make it easier for employees to disconnect such as by "going dark" in which employees would leave their devices at work before going home for the evening.

While the study is still in its infancy and is currently limited in terms of its subjects, Google hopes to find the answers to many questions in the years to come, such as what the biggest influencers are in creating a satisfying and productive work experience, how to maximize happiness and productivity simultaneously, and how peak performance can be sustained over long periods of time.


Edited by Rory J. Thompson

TechZone360 Contributing Writer

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