Data Visualisation #8

My week of back pain and rehab

I have 3 bulging discs in my back that unfortunately flare up from time to time. I had a particularly bad wave of back pain, spasm, and sciatica last week. My original plans for my data collection activity went out the window and instead I decided to track how my pain impacted my work. I recorded my perceived pain levels, every time that pain physically impacted or disturbed me (e.g. I got up from my desk to walk around, I used my makeshift standing desk, I went to get a hot water bottle etc..), and every time I responded with a bout of specific rehab exercises or yoga.

I wanted to see the level of interruption on my work day and also to see how my rehab exercises helped curtail this and whether there are any improvements I could make to fast-track my recovery time in the future. I kept what I was recording to fairly broad and simplistic actions to avoid any added stress to my working day. Also, with this block’s theme in mind, I wanted to create something that could be shared and understood easily. The circle represents the five days, day one is orange, and then it follows a clockwise pattern.

This week was the easiest week so far to record my activity and this was due to the fact I had a physical reminder to prompt me into action! Compared to previous injuries and through the action of recording my pain, I was more aware of my own level of discomfort than usual. This perhaps prompted me into action sooner with regards to rehabbing rather than just trying to push through the pain. My recovery time was shortened by approximately three days and I put this down to my increased awareness of the process and how it was pushed to the forefront of my mind. The patterns of preemptive rehab are not the norm for me but it demonstrates their added value and clearly lessens the impact the injuries could have on my work.

Reflecting on the theme itself I was caught between two trains of thought. In one respect, I think it could be really beneficial to have a holistic view of your team and staff. Understanding their wellbeing could help drive policy interventions to maximize the impact of the supports that are available, improve these supports, assist with capacity planning and help develop a greater understanding of an employee/student’s needs. However, I would have some personal trepidation about sharing this type of data with my management team, knowing that this would be shared at a global level. This type of data could impact my overall performance evaluation, my promotion prospects, and what projects I am given. Questions over data privacy, confidentiality, and sharing also immediately come to mind. This type of information would be useful for prospective employers, as well as for companies that provide products such as health insurance and mortgages. Prospective employers could use this information to make adaptations to the working environment and companies could tailor their services accordingly. However, the opportunity to discriminate and exclude is also apparent and in my opinion a more realistic outcome.

One Reply to “Data Visualisation #8”

  1. I do hope your back pain is improving. It’s a really effective dataviz, and lots of intriguing reflections. Your points about the possibility of collecting wellbeing data in particular caught my attention, as I recently found this report on using apps, platforms and other “wellbeing analytics” to track students’ wellbeing, mental health: The sensitivities around the data collection, as you’ve noted, are huge. But this is a really important topic in terms of the “governing with data” theme, as increasing numbers of universities are now seeking to monitor student wellbeing in order to assess which ones need some kind of support and intervention. This is about governing with data in a very real sense: developing institutional policies that will use data to make decisions about how to intervene in students’ personal and/or academic lives. The aims are truly admirable and hopefully it will help identify students in distress, but it does still raise a whole bunch of thorny issues which you’ve anticipated in your reflections here. I look forward to your final dataviz and reflections next time.

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