Health staff begin using wearable tech to measure stress and anxiety levels


October 10, 2019, was World Mental Health Day and this opportunity was taken to announce the start of an experiment into using technology to deal with stress in the health industry. WPP Health Practice has teamed up with tech company BioBeats to conduct the research. 100 volunteers have been selected to use wearable fitness trackers, which measure the stress and anxiety levels of health staff.

This is part of a campaign to promote corporate wellness through the collection and analysis of data. This is considered a landmark and high-level study that should have a real impact on changing corporate policies around reducing stress and anxiety among employees. Although it focuses on the health industry, for now, any solutions found should be more widely applicable.

What is the Wearable Technology?

The fitness trackers being used are wearables, meaning that they will remain on the body of volunteers, continuously collecting data for researchers. The trial, lasting three months, involves staff from Sydney, Milan, and Lon don. They will be using a wearable monitor, which collects all sorts of data including steps walked, heart rate, sleep patterns, and breathing. This is then sent to an app where it can be viewed and analyzed.

The wearable tech, created by BioBeats, will gather data during work hours, but also during periods of rest, such as on weekends and evenings. This is to measure the extent to which it is work that is contributing to high stress or anxiety levels. Healthcare is viewed as a particularly stressful sector of employment, but other professions including military personnel, police officers, and pilots will benefit from the data gathered by this technology.

Potential Improvements

If the study reveals that staff is experiencing unhealthy levels of stress and anxiety, then policy proposals will be made. CEOs within the health industry will be expected to offer a chance for employees to de-stress. Traditional salaries and financial benefits could be paired with other rewards, such as spa gift certificates, which nudge employees towards using their recreation time for wellness-based activities.

Spa treatments are one of the most effective forms of stress reduction, but there is no guarantee that employees will use their own income for this purpose. Offering gift vouchers, therefore, is just one potential way to boost corporate wellness for employees. Other options include limiting work hours, extending breaks, or offering a space dedicated to meditation and relaxation.

Corporate wellness is becoming ever more important, but it is impossible to achieve without gathering data. On World Health Day, this announcement by WPP and BioBeats is highly welcomed. Health workers face a difficult task day in, day out, and there is no doubt that this can contribute to high stress and anxiety levels. What is unclear, however, is the extent to which this is the case. By monitoring their heart rate and breathing levels, understanding the scale of the problem will be increased, opening up the opportunity for progress.

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