This post details the top best practices for working with Workplace Analytics data in R. Code examples in this post make use of the wpa and the dplyr packages.

## 1. Use import_wpa()

We always recommend using import_wpa() for reading in CSV queries as it is optimised for the wpa package, applying certain checks as well as variable classifications based on what is expected from the Workplace Analytics data. In effect, import_wpa() is a substitute for read.csv(), readr::read_csv(), or data.table::fread(), whichever is your usual go-to CSV reader.

Data validation is important - and with the R package, this is as simple as running validation_report() on the existing data.

You would simply run it on the data frame containing the query:

library(wpa)
dv_data %>% validation_report()

## 3. Give informative names to your queries

This is up to individual preferences, but here is a case for giving informative and slightly more elaborative names to queries. First, it will make it easy for you or your fellow analysts to have an idea of what is in the CSV file prior to reading in the data. Moreover, clear and informative names can help analysts avoid errors at the mid-stage of the analysis, where it is likely that numerous queries have been run, and it is imaginably confusing if they all have generic names like Collaboration Assessment1.csv or Person Query v5a.csv.

We propose to get the name right from the start at the tenant, so that the name of the query on the tenant is consistent with the name of the query saved on your local machine. Here is an example of an informative query name:

SPQ_May18toJune19_SalesOnly_MyInitials_20200923

where:

• SPQ stands for Standard Person Query
• May18toJune19 stands for the date range in which the query covers
• SalesOnly means that the query is covering the Sales organization only
• MyInitials are the initials of the analyst who ran this query.
• 20200923 is the date when you ran the query.

## 4. Keep your R files short and use source()

Although there isn’t an universal guide on what the maximum length of an individual R file should be, there is a good case for keeping an R file within 400 lines of code. The main reason is because it keeps the code easy to navigate, and you won’t have to do a lot of scrolling or advanced search to find out where you wrote a specific chunk of code.

To help keep your R files short, it is recommended that you use source(), which tells R to run another R script on your machine. For instance, you could use source("myscripts/data_cleaning.R") to run a script called data_cleaning.R which contains some upfront code that loads and prepares your data for analysis. You can also achieve the same with functions.

## 5. Use person-level averages

It is recommended to use person-level averages where possible. What this means is that for any given metric, you would calculate an average for each employee before you would calculate it for the group. This effectively avoids people who may be represented by more person-weeks in the data (e.g. they have been in the company for longer) to have their results skew the data. In R, this can be replicated by grouping and summarising the data twice:

library(wpa)
spq %>%
group_by(PersonId, Organization) %>%
summarise(Collaboration_hours = mean(Collaboration_hours)) %>%
group_by(Organization) %>%
summarise(Collaboration_hours = mean(Collaboration_hours))

All of the functions in the wpa package already calculate averages this way, so it is recommended that you use the package functions directly where possible. The above example is replicated by the following functions from the package:

spq %>% collaboration_sum(hrvar = "Organization", return = "table")

# Or

spq %>% create_bar(metric = "Collaboration_hours", hrvar = "Organization", return = "table")

## 6. Ensure you adhere to privacy thresholds

Privacy is an essential element of Workplace Analytics, so make sure you respect the privacy thresholds in your analysis. To do this, ensure you always calculate the number of distinct persons (n_distinct(PersonId) is one way to do it) for each sub-group that you are analysing, and make sure you do not display any data that goes below the threshold setting. All of the functions in the wpa package already do this, and you can adjust the threshold setting with the argument mingroup, which defaults to 5.

## 7. Comment WHY, not WHAT

To make it easy for others and your future self to understand your code, comments (#) are essential. However, it is easy to go overboard and over-comment. The best practice principle here is then to comment on why you are doing something in a certain way, rather than what you are doing, as the rationale is that it is often obvious for the reader what you are doing (e.g. filtering, selecting columns) but less obvious why.

## 8. When you’ve written the same code 3 times, write a function

This “best practice” suggestion actually came from a popular tweet by Data Scientist and R educator David Robinson. This basically captures the DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) principle in programming. There are several advantages of writing functions, which one of them includes the fact that you can just change the function once, and all the changes would be applied to everywhere in your script where that function is used. Just consider the following example:

# Filter Organization by Sales and extract number of distinct people
spq %>% filter(Organization == "Sales") %>% pull(PersonId) %>% n_distinct()

# Filter Organization by Operations and extract number of distinct people
spq %>% filter(Organization == "Operations") %>% pull(PersonId) %>% n_distinct()

# Filter Organization by Engineering and extract number of distinct people
spq %>% filter(Organization == "Engineering") %>% pull(PersonId) %>% n_distinct()

versus the following:

filt_org <- function(filter_string){
spq %>% filter(Organization == filter_string) %>% pull(PersonId) %>% n_distinct()
}

filt_org("Sales")
filt_org("Operations")
filt_org("Engineering")

The second chunk is much more readable, much more easier to edit, and also more elegant than the first approach of explicitly coding out everything.