Wellness technology in the workplace: Part 1 – HRV and Stress

In Corporate Wellness Blog by tailoredfit

Technology is playing an increasing role in our day-to-day lives, with the ability to track and analyse data on our health becoming a mainstay.

From Fitbits to Apple watches, staff can track how many steps they are taking, how often they move, their heart rate and food intake. The key question is, from a company perspective, what data can we best utilise to improve staff health, wellbeing, engagement and productivity?

In this first part we will be taking a look at one of our favourite pieces of wellness kit… heart rate variability monitors!

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What do they do?

HRV monitors (such as the one pictured above manufactured by Firstbeat) are worn continuously for at least 24 hours. They give a highly-detailed insight into some key area of staff health and wellbeing. This includes:

  • Daily stress levels - showing the cause of elevated stress and allowing interventions to be made and helping staff to avoid stress related illness and absence.
     
  • Recovery ability - highlighting what activities are most beneficial for looking after their health and facilitating staff to stay at peak performance.
     
  • Effects of exercise - empowering staff to choose the right forms of exercise that increases health, without adding to their existing stress.
     
  • Amount and quality of sleep – showing staff how much recovery they are actually getting, enabling them to improve sleep routines and improve health and performance.

How can they improve health and performance?

Having an accurate measurement, alongside coaching from an expert, allows staff to make informed decisions regarding their health and utilises the power of data-driven behavioural change.

Stress and Recovery

Showing staff their stress levels and highlighting the key causes allows them to make intelligent decisions based on insight about their daily schedule. In one instance highlighted below, one member of staff we worked with was in a stressed state for a large proportion of their working day particularly through the morning. We were able to ascertain that the root cause of the data output was back-to-back meetings early in the day.

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Being able to show that organising meetings in this way was increasing stress and reducing performance and cognition enabled the employer to build in 10-minute breaks between meetings. Presenting this data in black and white also increased the likelihood of compliance.

Effects of exercise

We make assumptions that any exercise will be beneficial for us, but this is not always the case. Often when our body is under one kind of stress, adding another stressor just makes it worse. In the example shown below, we can see this staff member was having a reasonably stressful day so decided to go for an intense session at the gym. Although this most likely took their mind off of the stress at work, it added a high physical stressor that compounded the mental stress. You can see that this stress carried on beyond the end of the work day, and in fact during the first few hours of sleep until 2am.

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Knowing that intense exercise was not the answer allowed this staff member to change their gym routine during the day. They kept high intensity exercise to mornings only, when stress causing cortisol levels were naturally higher, and aimed for lower intensity workouts during the day and in the evenings. Arranged in this way, this offered the stress reducing effects of taking their mind off work but without significantly increasing their physical stress.

Sleep

As discussed in last week’s article, sleep is hugely important for health, wellbeing and performance. It is not just the amount of sleep staff get, but also the quality of sleep. Below is an example of one staff member, who on paper was getting enough sleep, but as you can see the quality was below par. In this instance the first two and a half hours gave no recovery at all and left just five hours of quality sleep from the total of seven and a half hours of sleep they had.

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From this data we can see that the period before bed was not as relaxing as it needed to be. Knowing this allowed this staff member to change their evening routine to be more conducive to quality sleep. Once again, seeing the hard data on paper is more tangible and increases the odds of staff sticking with this routine that boosts their health and performance.


If you want to see more examples of how we have used this great piece of technology to improve the health and performance of executives, read our previous article on Lessons learnt from the lifestyle of a Senior Executive. If you want to find out how we can implement this data-driven approach to your organisation, drop us an email at info@tailoredfitcoaching.co.uk.