Workplace stress takes a toll on employees. In July 2016, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health studied job stress in collaboration with National Public Radio and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The study found that while many people think work is good for health, the majority of employees surveyed for the study believed the workplace was harmful. The most-reported problem was stress. That’s consistent with figures from a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) report. Published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the report states 40 percent of workers say their work is “very to extremely stressful.”
In June 2014, we wrote about Spire, a device that tracks respiration to measure whether people are tense, relaxed, or focused. Spire Inc., Stanford University‘s Department of Psychology, and LinkedIn Corp. have released a report: “Using a Wearable Health Tracker to Improve Health and Wellbeing Under Stress“. The study tracked the use of passive sensing, real-time notification, and training in breathing to improve the reaction to stress for better employee mental health and productivity. In the study, 114 LinkedIn employees in a study group were compared to a control group of 111 workers. The study group was equipped with Spire health monitors. Both groups were given three stress and anxiety measuring tests before the study, which were repeated after a one-month period. After the month-long intervention, the study group had 10 to 12 percent less stress on the three tests compared with the control group. The study also found the Spire results showed improved breathing patterns, though these changes were too small to be statistically significant.
The Stanford/LinkedIn/Spire report is just one study in this field. Replicated studies and studies with other methods and methodologies will be required before wearables’ potential for meaningful workplace stress reduction will be accepted. The research is peer-reviewed and will be presented at the 36th Anxiety and Depression Association of America‘s conference in April. Spire has an open invitation to other groups who wish to do research with them, which you can find at this link.