One Overlooked Office Design Trick Could Make You Happier at Work
The most recent results of the American Psychological Association’s Work and Well-being Survey reveal some interesting — and refreshing — trends: Nearly 71 percent of workers report their employers cared more about their mental health at the time of polling than before the Covid-19 pandemic. Well-being emerged as a priority for workers in general, with 81 percent of respondents saying they will prioritize organizations that support mental health the next time they apply for a new job.
But just because employees want mental health support at work doesn’t mean their workplace meets the need. For example, when asked what would alleviate stress at work, respondents to a 2021 McKinsey survey said flexible schedules and hybrid work arrangements would help. Yet some companies want workers back in the office — as of February 2023, about half of American office spaces are filled for the first time since 2020.
Certainly, flexible hybrid work can help people be happier and more focused, says Matthias Mehl, a psychology professor at the University of Arizona. But other aspects of work can be adjusted to support mental health, especially one fundamental component: The actual workplace.
Mehl is the senior author of a new paper that examines the relationship between personality type and workspace preference. It’s an argument for letting employee personality differences shape office design, as well as a serious acknowledgment of the ability of workplaces to influence focus and happiness. These elements, in turn, affect career satisfaction and performance.
We know that people have different personalities, but we don’t consider these differences when creating workspaces that benefit all, Mehl says. But if we want to remake work in a way that nurtures health and wellness, maybe we should.
It’s better to provide many different kinds of office spaces — spades that support different work styles and personalities — than continue to “build one-size-fits-all office spaces that don’t fit anyone really well,” explains co-author Ester Sternberg, research director for the University of Arizona’s Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine and director of the university’s Institute on Place, Wellbeing & Performance.
“The take-home message here is to provide lots of choices, and individualized spaces, so that individuals can choose what works best for them,” Sternberg says.
Why personality in the workplace matters for mental health
Ultimately, the study found that extroverted people are happier and more focused in offices with open seating arrangements. Meanwhile, introverted people and people who worry more prefer private offices. These results are in the Journal of Research in Personality.
Comparatively, other traits, like agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness, did not matter as much for how people did in different spaces.
This research was part of a larger research project called Wellbuilt for Wellbeing, funded by the United States General Services Administration (GSA), which manages and supports federal agencies. The overall aim is to identify the environmental features of office spaces that best support physical and emotional health.
The results of this study stem from data gathered from 270 office workers. These study participants wore wearable health-tracking devices and answered questionnaires about how they felt via smartphone. As a result, the researchers could link aspects of health and well-being, like mood and focus, to aspects of their work environment.
Earlier studies have also confirmed what many office workers know to be true: that workstation design can influence our ability to focus and be productive. Workstation types can include private offices, cubicles, and open-plan offices.
Mehl says that even if extroverted people enjoy open-office plans and worriers can focus better in private offices, we can all benefit from some mix-n-match. An extrovert sometimes needs to withdraw socially, and a calm person may need the shielding of a cubicle to concentrate.
“Ultimately, I think, it’s to a large extent about providing a range of workspace options and degrees of freedom,” he says.
How to make offices that support mental health
The reality of an office is that it will contain people with different personality types. However, this does not mean that bosses should ask people to take a personality test and use those results to assign them a workstation. That would be the wrong takeaway, Mehl explains.
Instead, he says we need to:
- Create workplaces that cater to different needs
- Give people the freedom to use these spaces flexibly
Sternberg says the Wellbuilt for Wellbeing study has also yielded ways offices can be tweaked to support mental health. For example, a sound level of about 50 decibels is seemingly the best for reducing stress. (This is about the sound of a very quiet dishwasher.) There’s also optimal light: bright full spectrum sunlight from 8 am to 12 pm and redder light in the afternoon and evening.
The option to work remotely can also help with stress, Mehl says. Which may be great news for you — and less so for your boss.
£12999 Trance Advanced E+ Elite 0 is Giant's lightest ever eMTB – BikeRadar
New Liv Intrigue X Advanced E+ launches alongside unisex bike
Published: March 21, 2023 at 4:00 pm
The Trance Advanced E+ Elite 0 is Giant’s lightest electric mountain bike yet, weighing a claimed 18.8kg for a size-medium bike.
The bike uses Giant’s new SyncDrive Pro 2 electric bike motor system, which was developed in conjunction with Yamaha.
The electric mountain bike also uses the new EnergyPak Smart 400 battery. This is built around higher-density batteries and was developed in conjunction with Panasonic.
The new Trance also features (slightly) updated geometry, an adjustable one-piece cockpit and new motor controls.
The Liv Intrigue X Advanced E+ Elite is launching alongside the unisex Trance Advanced E+ Elite. This is the brand’s first carbon electric trail bike
In keeping with Liv’s design ethos, the bike feature’s women’s-specific geometry. Liv is the last major manufacturer that still manufactures separate unisex and women’s frames.
The Giant Trance X Advanced E+ Elite range starts at £5,499 for a Deore-equipped bike.
The top-spec Trance X Advanced E+ Elite 0 comes with Fox Live Valve, a full SRAM Eagle X01 AXS drivetrain, Zipp 3Zero Moto wheels, Quarq Tyrewiz pressure sensors and full-carbon everything. It will set you back £12,999.
No international pricing was available at the time of writing.
A lighter and more powerful motor, plus new battery tech
The Giant Trance X Advance E+ is powered by a new battery pack developed in conjunction with Panasonic. This is based on 22700 cells.
According to Giant, 22700 cells are lighter and more energy dense than cells typically used in electric bike battery packs.
The batteries also “stay cooler, which means less stress on the system and a longer total lifecycle”, says Giant.
The bike ships with a new smart charger. Giant says this stays in constant communication with the battery pack, extending battery life.
The charger can be used to charge the battery up to 60 per cent – the ideal charge level for long-term storage, according to Giant.
The bike is built around Giant’s new SyncDrive Pro 2 motor. As with the brand’s previous motors, this has been developed in collaboration with Yamaha.
This is Giant’s most powerful motor to date, delivering up to 85Nm of torque and up to 400 per cent support.
It is claimed to be lighter at 2.7kg (Giant has not supplied savings figures) and quieter than the previous-generation motor.
The bike’s Smart Assist mode can control the motor automatically via six sensors.
As with most motors, the system’s behaviours can be customised in a companion app.
Adjustments available in the app include Launch Control (this adjusts how quickly torque from the motor kicks in), assistance support level and more.
Giant notes these adjustments can be made to any existing or future bike fitted with the SyncDrive Pro 2 motor.
The system’s controls are integrated into the top tube of the bike, with a supplementary control integrated into the grips.
Suspension and geometry
All bikes in the Trance Advanced E+ Elite 0 range are built around a mullet wheel setup.
The bike is designed to run a 150mm-travel fork and has 140mm of rear-wheel travel. This is controlled by Giant’s long-standing Maestro suspension system.
The geometry of the bike has also been updated, but only slightly.
The previous-generation bike used 29er wheels front and rear. The adoption of a 27.5in rear wheel on the new bike means chainstay length has shrunk significantly to 447mm on all sizes of the new bike (down from 473mm).
Reach, stack, head angle and seat angle all remain unchanged.
A flip chip enables riders to switch between high and low positions.
The stack and reach of the women’s-specific models is different, but all other figures remain the same.
2023 Giant Trance Advanced E+ Elite geometry table
2023 Liv Intrigue Advanced E+ Elite geometry table
An adjustable… one-piece cockpit?
The bike features Giant’s all-new Contact SLR Trail one-piece cockpit.
Unlike the majority of one-piece cockpits, the stack and angle of the bars can be adjusted.
A series of specially moulded spacers sit beneath the stem. These adjust the stack and rotation of the bars.
The top cap for the stem features swappable inserts to fit bike computers, lights or other accessories.
The cockpit has a claimed weight of 255g in an unspecified width.
Giant claims this presents a 30 per cent reduction versus a regular two-piece carbon cockpit, and a 40 per cent reduction versus a two-piece alloy cockpit.
The bars are also claimed to offer 16 per cent more vertical compliance than a Contact SLR Trail carbon handlebar.
Google launches Bard in the US and UK: Here's what we know – Euronews
Ever since the conversational artificial intelligence (AI) ChatGPT took the world by storm with its impressive capabilities, all eyes have been on Google to see how the tech giant would respond to this apparent competitor to its dominance over search.
Enter Bard, Google’s own chatbot which Sundar Pichai, the company’s CEO, says “seeks to combine the breadth of the world’s knowledge with the power, intelligence and creativity of our large language models”.
Initially rolled out to a select group of “trusted testers” in February, Google announced on Tuesday March 21 it was allowing more people to use it via a waiting list.
The company, which is owned by Alphabet Inc, hasn’t said how many people will be given access, and initial applicants will be limited to the US and the UK before it is offered in other countries.
Google has dominated Internet search for more than two decades now, so it is treading carefully with the rollout of its AI tools. If the technology doesn’t behave as expected, it could harm the company’s ad-driven business model.
Despite the technology’s potential pitfalls, Bard still offers “incredible benefits” such as “jumpstarting human productivity, creativity, and curiosity,” Google said in a blog post that two of its vice presidents – Sissie Hsiao and Eli Collins – wrote with assistance from Bard.
In a blog post announcing Bard back in February, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai started by talking up Google’s work on AI with its 2017 “field-defining paper” on Transformer technology, and its progress with diffusion models which he said are “the basis of many of the generative AI applications you’re starting to see today”.
Those generative applications have been front and centre of the AI space for months, as text-to-image, text-to-video, and even text-to-music platforms have proliferated.
How does Bard compare to ChatGPT?
Bard is going to use information taken from the internet to provide “to provide fresh, high-quality responses,” according to Pichai’s blog – but the current version is not connected to the Internet.
Like ChatGPT, it is trained on a huge data set that has a cut-off point.
Microsoft, which is a major investor in ChatGPT creator OpenAI, has recently launched an AI chatbot within its own Bing search engine. Powered by OpenAI technology, Bing AI is connected to the internet.
Users will have to wait and see how Bard compares once it is connected.
Like ChatGPT, Bard can explain complex subjects, such as outer space discoveries, in terms simple enough for a child to understand.
It can also perform mundane tasks, such as providing tips for planning a party, or lunch ideas based on what food is left in a refrigerator.
Google is making it very clear that Bard is in testing mode. When signing up, a message tells the user: “Bard is an experiment. As you try Bard, please remember: Bard will not always get it right. Bard may give inaccurate or inappropriate responses”.
Users are advised to use Google search to check any responses they are doubtful about.
Bard’s existence was announced less than two weeks after Microsoft disclosed it was pouring billions of dollars into OpenAI, a company it already had a $1 billion (€0.93 billion) stake in.
Many analysts believe AI technology will be as transformational as personal computers, the Internet and smartphones have been in various stages over the past 40 years.
Pichai has been emphasising the importance of AI for the past six years, with one of the most visible byproducts materialising in 2021 as part of a system called “Language Model for Dialogue Applications,” or LaMDA, which will be used to power Bard.
Google also plans to begin incorporating LaMDA and other AI advancements into its dominant search engine to provide more helpful answers to the increasingly complicated questions being posed by its billions of users.
Without providing a specific timeline, Pichai indicated these tools will be deployed in Google’s search in the near future.
In another sign of Google’s deepening commitment to the field, Google announced last week that it is investing in and partnering with Anthropic, an AI start-up led by some former leaders at OpenAI.
Don't Worry, Redfall Puts An Unmistakably Arkane Spin On The Looter Shooter – GameSpot
Arkane Studios is known for a very specific kind of game: immersive sims. The team made its mark on the industry with intricate sandboxes that feature systems and mechanics interacting with each other in fascinating ways. Games like Dishonored and Dishonored 2 are standout examples of why the developer is heralded as a master of the genre.
But, in recent years, the studio has started to reassess what it means to be an Arkane game. Prey, while still a science-fiction take on the immersive sim genre, served as the foundation for Mooncrash, a DLC that reconfigured the game into a roguelike. Deathloop leaned harder into that genre by embracing the run-based format to break down what makes an immersive sim so compelling and asking the player to examine the pieces and put them back together.
Redfall continues this process of reflection and reinvention, and it’s perhaps the biggest departure from what we expect an Arkane game to be. But after getting some hands-on time with the game, it quickly became apparent that underneath the open-world, first-person shooting, and loot, there are systems, mechanics, and gameplay opportunities that are unmistakably Arkane.
Like Prey: Mooncrash and Deathloop, Redfall is aiming to take the fundamentals of Arkane’s tried-and-true formula and build anew on top of them. This, according to creative director Ricardo Bare, was how it ended up with an open-world, cooperative shooter that has multiple characters with unique playstyles.
“If you look at our catalog of games, we always try to do something a little bit different,” said Bare. “Dishonored is very stealth-oriented and it’s got a mission structure that’s more classic: You do a mission, you travel there, you go back, you do a mission, travel–they’re not connected together like an open world. But then if you look at Prey, [it] has stealth and it’s one big level–a big-ass space station. You can go anywhere, so the mission structure’s far more open. That’s a baby open world.
“I think you can look at those two games and go, ‘Arkane made both of those,’ but they’re very different from each other. They have a common creative core; for Mooncrash you can see there’s lots of procedurally generated content in there and you can play four different characters. So every time, we stretch ourselves a little bit and we add some different elements into the mix. We wanted to go open world for a long time, and so we’ve been stretching towards that, and we wanted to do something with multiple characters. But then some of us just personally love playing co-op games together–we play D&D together, we play Borderlands together, we play Diablo together–and we were like, ‘Can we do one of our kind of games but with co-op?’ So that was some of the drive behind Redfall.”
Bare’s cited influences are readily apparent in Redfall. Although I was only able to play the game solo–which, for the record, seems completely viable even though you don’t have AI teammates–the building blocks for a fun co-op multiplayer experience are there. Not just that, but it looks to be set up in a way that will still encourage the kind of creativity and expression that people want out of Arkane’s games. Key to this are four characters, each of whom has their own distinct personality–kind of like Borderlands.
Jacob Boyer is your classic ex-soldier, Remi De Larosa is the engineer of the group, Layla Ellison specializes in biomedicine, and Devinder is a cryptozoologist and inventor. However, these archetypes are given some extra flair both narratively and mechanically. Jacob, for example, has a vampiric eye and a spectral raven, the former of which allows him to summon a powerful sniper rifle and deliver devastatingly accurate headshots to take out groups of cultists in an instant. The latter, meanwhile, is extremely vital for scouting and marking enemies without giving away your position. Jacob can also cloak himself to sneak through enemy territory or get into a more advantageous spot before unleashing chaos.
Remi, meanwhile, has a great degree of combat experience and has a robotic pal named Bribon that she can use to pull agro and distract enemies–think Claptrap, but not annoying. She can also lob sticky explosives and do area-of-effect healing. Mysterious circumstances have bestowed Layla with telekinetic powers, which she can use to place a shield ahead of her and then use a shockwave emitted by the ability to push her away, or to summon a spectral elevator that launches her and her companions into the air. Most interestingly, however, she can also call upon a friendly vampire–her ex-boyfriend–who will go around and take out enemies for a short duration. Finally, Devinder has clearly spent way too much time online and has theories about what’s going on, but more importantly, he’s got a device that shocks cultists and immobilizes them for a short time, another that sends out a wave of ultraviolet light that instantly turns vampires into stone, making them breakable, and can throw a teleporter to get to hard-to-reach places.
On their own, each of these characters introduces a variety of strategic considerations and creates opportunities to get imaginative with how to approach a roving group of cultists, or a vampire that may be patrolling an area. And as you work your way through the skill tree, these abilities develop to unlock more potential. However, what will be interesting to see is how these characters synergize with each other in multiplayer. Since I didn’t get any co-op experience, much of that has been left to the imagination for now, but as I played, I definitely had moments where I thought the ability of one of the other characters would have come in handy, so it’s clear that Arkane has crafted scenarios where some characters excel over others to encourage comradery and coordination.
Special abilities aside, I was surprised by how solid the first-person shooting felt. Although Arkane’s previous games are built around first-person shooter dynamics, in terms of pace and intensity, these games have always been atypical, especially in comparison to the likes of Call of Duty or Destiny. But Redfall’s shooting feels like it’s in a good place, with weapons that provide satisfying feedback and have a heft to them. Pistols range from quick and snappy for when I was trying to stay on the move, to punchy when I needed to clear out a room; sniper rifles were precise and took a decent chunk off health bars when aiming for the head; and assault rifles felt suited to crowd control and getting into the thick of the battle. Coupled with the various abilities characters have, there was a good back-and-forth dynamic between guns and powers that kept me engaged.
Underneath the open-world, first-person shooting, and loot there are systems, mechanics, and gameplay opportunities that are unmistakably Arkane
I was worried that the looter shooter design trope of whittling away at health bars endlessly would become tiresome, but enemies didn’t feel like bullet sponges, and there was also an execution mechanic where, after a certain amount of damage, I could get in close and stab vampires through the heart to deliver a finishing blow using the stakes attached to weapons. Doing this is key, as otherwise vampires will heal and get back into the fight. Along with the other two pillars of combat, I found myself staying engaged throughout my time. Naturally, that time was very limited, so it remains to be seen if this can be sustained through multiple hours, but thus far I am encouraged by it.
For me, though, one of my favorite parts of Arkane’s games is the stories they tell, whether that’s the overarching plot or the smaller tales within it. Redfall’s take on vampire fiction is intriguing, as it infuses classic gothic creatures of the night mythos with a healthy amount of science gone wrong and a corporation that’s up to no good.
“We think vampires are just cool right up from the get-go. But if you look at them historically, they never really go away–they’re perennially popular. It’s just that each generation or each group of creatives reinterpret them and put their own spin on them. The reason they work is because they serve as a metaphor for something, whatever’s on people’s minds at the time.
“The thing that I think that makes them interesting is, in our case, it’s not a disease. It’s not an accident that happened in a lab. It was deliberate. It’s not like, ‘Oh no, I got bit by a vampire, I’m going to turn, let’s find the cure.’ There is no cure, just like there’s no cure for a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. They wanted to become the butterfly. You can’t reverse that because it’s not like a cold; it’s a metamorphosis. They became on the outside what they already were on the inside, and that’s why the cultists worship them. They’re like, ‘Please make me a vampire too,’ but it has to happen deliberately because the vampire has to want to turn you. It’s not like, ‘I got some vampire spit on me and now it’s inevitable.'”
The setup for my play session involved the Hollow Man, a vampire god who is worshipped by cultists. Before his transformation, he was a blood researcher, but the circumstances of his ascension are unclear, and the details are essential to bringing him down. So, off we went to his very well-guarded mansion to figure it all out.
Despite my objective being clear, I was immediately distracted by side quests and other activities. The group of survivors I was running with had made a fire station their base and, unfortunately, a popcorn machine in the building was busted, so I decided that fixing it could help boost morale. This tangent took me to the Overton, a classic theater with a spacious atrium, balconies overlooking the seating, and plenty of side corridors and rooms to explore. Once that was done, I was alerted to the fact that there were safehouses nearby that could be secured by completing a series of smaller quests and then taking out the underboss that held dominion over the area. Along the way, I rifled through dilapidated buildings to find resources and read notes to find out more about how the vampires took over and how the people were affected.
The challenge with Redfall, however, is balancing this kind of storytelling within a multiplayer experience where the focus is on the people you’re playing with. Bare indicated that the focus for storytelling is on the town and your efforts to liberate it, as opposed to you as a character. As a result, the team has put effort into ensuring that the fictional town of Redfall and its vampires are memorable.
“Typically we make a game with just one protagonist and so the story’s about them, it’s the story about Morgan, it’s about Corvo,” he explained. “And so we couldn’t really do that this time, at least not without multiplying our team’s size by four. Because we have four heroes, the story can’t be just about [one] hero. So I think our approach this time is the story is about Redfall and the experience of fighting the vampires.”
Redfall, Massachusetts is a virtual playground much larger than anything in Dishonored, Prey or Deathloop; the closest thing to a bona fide open world that Arkane has made. The town has been besieged by vampires that have blotted out the sun and severed connections to the outside world. That leaves it up to the player to clear up the infestation, as well as liberate the town and its people.
When it comes to finding examples of that Arkane magic in this game, based on what I saw thus far, the world itself is a pretty good indicator. Like Dunwall, Karnaca, Talos I, and Blackreef before it, Redfall has a distinct sense of place that merges the mundane with the monstrous to create a setting that feels grounded but also fantastical. At first blush, there’s a beauty to Redfall that is inviting. It has a rustic autumnal vibe that is almost picturesque, but then you look a little closer and notice how it has been corrupted; perpetual darkness that is only alleviated by the faint light emanating from a oppressed sun; people who have thrown away their humanity in hopes that they’ll be selected to ascend to vampiredom; powerful vampires menacingly gliding around and occasional unexpectedly teleporting.
As with all open worlds, one of the challenges is making the spaces in between the key landmarks and destinations interesting, or at the very least giving players a way to engage with the world that keeps them invested. For Breath of the Wild, the ability to climb anything meant everything felt like an opportunity; Elden Ring streamlined traversal by giving players Torrent, a spectral steed; and Assassin’s Creed relies on its parkour (most of the time) to ensure the player stays involved in moving around. Redfall doesn’t have any of these, at least in the time I played, and instead looks to be relying on giving players as many combat opportunities as possible. These situations are made more interesting by inviting players to make the most of the combat’s depth, and also use the openness of the environment. Cultists serve as fodder to quickly pick off, while the vampires present more of a challenge. There’s also a threat level that slowly rises as you clean the area up, and if you attract the attention of a district’s vampire ruler, it sends in a character called The Rook.
This character functions a lot like the Nightmare from Prey. It appears in a dramatic lightning storm and is a hulking, bullet sponge of a vampire that feels impossible to kill and, worse still, attracts other vampires to your location. This dynamic means that you need to be careful about how you approach certain areas and manage how much heat you’re drawing. In my playtime, I found myself being judicious about which fights I took on, occasionally choosing to use Devinder’s teleportation ability to get onto rooftops to skirt around gangs of cultists, or stealthing my way through vampire infested territory. Again, it remains to be seen whether this push-and-pull power struggle is enough to keep tedium at bay. The area I played was quite large, but was only the tutorial area–akin to Breath of the Wild’s Great Plateau–so some visual variety is likely as more of the map opens up.
“Once you beat the Hollow Man, you move to a second district,” Bare said. “That’s even bigger than this one, and it’s got three Vampire Gods that are fighting over the territory. We care about environmental storytelling deeply and so for us it was [about] picking and choosing our battles. It’s finding spots [to] just pour the density in and then leaving breathing room around it. So the big open cornfield outside the farm, that doesn’t need to have environmental storytelling details every 10 feet because it’s a big cornfield that you’re creeping through at night. It’s moody ambience. But then when you get to the farm, the farm is just chock-full of stuff for you to soak up.”
My main concern going into Redfall was that it’d be another looter shooter in the mold of what everyone thinks is popular, and in the process, lose what makes Arkane’s games special. My time with the game brought some much needed clarity to what Redfall actually is, and it is a looter shooter in the mold of popular titles like Borderlands. But, most importantly, at its core are design ideas that have enabled memorable exploration and narrative, as well as satisfying gameplay, in Arkane’s previous games. But just because it’s there doesn’t mean it’ll work, and moving into the open-world looter shooter genre is a big pivot for the studio. As a fan of Arkane’s work, I am more intrigued by it now and, regardless of how it comes together, it’ll be an interesting and distinct take on the genre at the very least.
The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors.
GameSpot may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.
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