New Patent from Microsoft Suggests Stress Can Not Only Be Predicted, but Prevented in the Workplace

New Patent from Microsoft Suggests Stress Can Not Only Be Predicted, but Prevented in the Workplace

Workplace stress has become a key issue in today’s business environment, and many studies have been performed to demonstrate why there has been such an increase, as well as what can be done to stymie its impact. Microsoft has recently filed a patent to show how seriously this issue must be taken. While it’s good to see the tech company invested in resolving this issue, one has to wonder whether the help of a new technology solution is necessary in identifying stressors in their workplace environment.

The Proposed Solution

In October of 2019, Microsoft began looking into what is described in the patent as “Emotion Detection from Contextual Signals for Surfacing Wellness Insights” technology. This technology can collect and compile data from various sources, including biometrics, fitness trackers, smartwatches, and usage data from Microsoft Office software, to provide employees with an “anxiety score.” This score can give employees valuable insights into their current level of stress, as well as provide them with ways to reduce stress, like taking a short break or a walk around the premises.

Let’s try to apply this idea. Let’s say John has an important meeting coming up, but he starts to feel anxiety creeping in. This anxiety could feel like a number of different things, but in reality, it’s the little things that give it away, such as typos, spelling errors, or just generally taking longer to perform tasks. John might not feel like he is anxious at the moment, but a notification could pop up on his device that tells him that he is exhibiting the signs, allowing him to take action against it. The app might tell him how his stress was calculated and what can be done about it based on his schedule.

Will This Technology Be Implemented?

There is a difference between filing a patent (filing an idea, essentially) and executing on it by creating a product or service. As such, there is no guarantee that this idea will come to fruition in any of Microsoft’s software solutions. That being said, it is nice to know that the people who are making the software you and I use on a regular basis recognize that employee wellness is important in the workplace.

Microsoft Is Not Alone In This Pursuit

This patent is just one more example of solutions that software developers are considering in regards to workers’ mental health. Here are some other ways that some of these tech companies are looking to address the pandemic of stress in the workplace:

  • MyAnalytics: Also from Microsoft is MyAnalytics, an individualized wellness and productivity tool, as well as Viva, a Teams-based tool that marries the benefits of MyAnalytics with Workplace Analytics, to create a tool that can give managers insights into the wellbeing of their employees.
  • Cisco: Cisco’s WebEx tool has implemented People Insights to provide data on individual employees, the entire team, or the whole workplace.
  • Google: To promote self-awareness and improvement, Google also plans to make this kind of data available to its employees.

But Do We Need It?

We realize that this might sound a bit odd. Is another notification really the best way for us to determine if we are stressed or anxious? Would it be too outlandish for us to say that it might be?

We are sure that some of your employees know how to identify their own emotions, but on the other side of the coin, there are some who might have an unhealthy relationship with their work, perhaps getting too absorbed in it and forgetting to respond to their own emotions. This kind of feature is one that might help employees know when it’s time to take a step back for the sake of their mental health. After all, employees that are suffering from stress will not perform to the best of their abilities.

What are your thoughts on this type of technology? Do you think there is any merit to the idea, or do you think that we, as humans, should be able to identify our own stress levels? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to our blog.



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