HERE Technologies is showing the way also in stress management

The Tampere unit provides the Moodmetric measurement to the whole crew. The measurement is done in co-operation with the occupational healthcare.

HERE Technologies is a global company providing mapping and location services with 9000 employees. About one percentage of the personnel is located in Finland and the vast majority of them in Tampere.

In the early spring 2018 the Tampere unit started discussions with the occupational health how to support the employees’ mental wellbeing proactively. Support for physical wellbeing had been offered for a while already, but Jari Syrjärinne, the unit manager, wanted a more holistic approach to employee wellbeing.

– We are a fast growing company and want to maintain our agility and positive drive. Almost all of us have a background in a big corporation, where fast growth first brings speed and unpredictable situations, but may eventually result in rigidity. We want to help our staff to keep up with the pace without compromizing the job wellbeing, Jari Syrjärinne says.

Jari Syrjärinne, the Unit Manager of HERE Technologies (Photo Moodmetric)

– Another important reason for starting the Moodmetric measurements was the objective data it provides. There is a lot of technology for assessing physical health, but the available methods to understand mental health are mainly subjective surveys. This is the first measurement that enables easy and almost insivible way to assess stress and recovery also in long term,  Jari Syrjärinne continues.

HERE’s occupational health physician, Leena Pesonen, was introduced to Moodmetric measurement through another customer and suggested the measurement to HERE as well. – I think the service seemed worth trying and wanted to present it to HERE. There is not that much technology available to be used in occupational health for assessing stress and recovery objectively that motivates the user for better stress management at the same time. I tried the ring myself, and I was impressed. I recognize my stress and recovery reactions very well in my body and it was great to verify that in the graphs of the Moodmetric app, says Leena Pesonen from a Finnish healthcare provider Terveystalo.

Not just a perk for the management team

The strong willingness to invest in employee wellbeing seems evident at HERE.Very often similar services are only provided to the management team or groups that are most active to request organizational and personal development activities. It is worth noting as well that HERE decided to book a follow up Moodmetric measurement right away. –  With this first measurement round we want to find out what is the starting level for HERE Tampere. In September when the last group of participants has completed the measurement we are able to reflect and discuss together what kind of wellbeing interventions are needed in the upcoming year. In the summer 2019 we will redo the measurements, Jari Syrjärinne says.

HERE decided to buy 20 rings and the Moodmetric measurement is done in three rounds for the whole staff. Between the measurements the rings are available for the personnel for free use.

Participating in the Moodmetric measurement is voluntary, but HERE hopes that everyone will seize the opportunity. – Usually the ones who are the most eager to participate, are the ones who already pay attention to their wellbeing. To plan truly effective workplace interventions,we need to be able to motivate everyone to take part in the measurement, Jari Syrjärinne says.

In May, HERE’s occupational health physician and Moodmetric’s representative held an info session where they talked about the Moodmetric measurement, its scientific background and how the measurement is linked with HERE’s occupational healthcare. The first measurement group was fully booked immediately after the info.

Great start at HERE

HERE is the first organization where the Moodmetric measurement is done in co-operation with the occupational health. During the two week measurement the participants learn about their stress and recovery levels by following the data on their mobile phone. The participants also get to try how different situations or work tasks show in the stress data. With the tips and advice from the introductory lession, the participants can engage in job crafting to reach better balance with stress and recovery. If the participants notice excessive stress load and suspect chronic stress, they have the opportunity to contact straight the occupational healthcare after the measurement. Objective data enhances the dialogue between the employee and the occupational health physician.

HERE’s first Moodmetric feedback session was in May. The group was happy to hear that they achieved the all time best* Moodmetric group average. – Now it’s really interesting to see what kind of group level stress averages the next two groups will have and do we need to strenghten our stress management skills as an organization. Next summer we will get feedback on how we have succeeded, Jari Syrjärinne concludes.

 

*Moodmetric-measurement is not a competition. “All time best” refers to a value that indicates a good balance of stress and recovery of the measured group. The daily Moodmetric average of 50 indicates a balanced autonomous nervous system.

PART 4: The Moodmetric ring stress measurement and understanding the data

This article series tell about stress and ways to measure it. Parts 1 and 2 describe the fight or flight reaction and how the body reacts to chronic stress. Methods for long term monitoring are presented in part 3. In this article we explain the Moodmetric ring measurement and how to interpret the data.

The Moodmetric smart ring measures electrodermal activity. It detects skin conductance with the band of the ring that works as electrodes. The band consists of two silver coated steel rings, and an insulator band in between them. 

Electrodes need to get a good contact with an area on skin where the eccrine sweat gland density is high. This varies from 400/cm2 on the palm to about 80/cm2 on the upper arm. A ring form for the Moodmetric sensor has been chosen to reach the best possible accuracy. The measurement point is on the palm side of the finger and at best the signal is unbroken.

The ring measures continuously and stores the data inside the ‘stone’. The mobile app does not need to be on, nor the phone near the ring. When the app is opened and the calendar icon chosen, the ring sends the data to the app via bluetooth connection. The measurement and data storing to the ring continue immediately. The real-time signal can be followed any time with the app.

Research by the Finnish Institute of Occupational health (2015) shows that the signal of the Moodmetric ring is comparable to that of a laboratory device. The ring is applicable for field studies.

The Moodmetric signal

The Moodmetric signal is the violet curve on the mobile app that can be observed real-time. It is the raw measurement signal but auto scaled in order to have the whole amplitude visible even during strong reactions.

The curve enables analysis of single reactions. Even a thought can cause a peak: excitement, idea, awe – each reaction forms a peak within a 1-2 second physiological delay.

Interpreting the raw signal requires expertise in the measurement method and understanding the possible sources of error.

The Moodmetric index

The electrodermal activity (EDA) raw signal is difficult to interpret and prone to errors. Strong reactions can easily be spotted on the curve,  but mathematical methods are needed for further analysis.

The Moodmetric index or the Moodmetric level has been developed to solve challenges related to EDA measurement. The algorithms count an index from 1 to 100 so that 1 is the lowest the person can reach. This is possible e.g. in deep sleep. 100 is the maximum arousal, strongest possible reaction of the person. Finding the min and max takes about 12 hours, which is the calibration period. The ring can be re-calibrated e.g. when changing from one user to another.

The Moodmetric index/level tells the activity level of the person at a certain moment, looking at a few minutes´ time window. The level does not indicate single reactions but changes fast if the arousal level of the person increases or decreases rapidly. E.g. increasing is first seen in growing amplitude and raising trend of the Moodmetric curve, then in higher Moodmetric level.

It is easy to get to 100. What is more interesting is to make rehearsals that aim to calm the mind, to get the index as low as possible.

In counting the Moodmetric index, the algorithms minimize the effect of finger’s movement and the skin normal moisture level on the measurement. The index is comparable between users. If two persons are at a same situation it is possible to observe which one is calmer.

There is no momentary optimal value

It is normal that the Moodmetric level fluctuates between 1 and 100 during the day. No momentary value is good or bad.

Important is also to know, that the Moodmetric measurement does not tell whether a reaction is positive or negative. The Moodmetric ring is not an emotion detector.

The fluctuation of stress levels is individual

There are people who react fast and strong, while others respond more calmly. For instance creative people are often very prone to stimulus and they get a lot of new ideas. This can be seen in high Moodmetric levels as well as big fluctuation. A person doing work that requires deep and long concentration might have low Moodmetric levels throughout the working day.

The levels can be high due to excitement and energy, or low due to good focus. All this is positive. The levels might also be high due to pressure and lack of control at work. Low figures in turn can tell of boredom or even depression. The measurement data always needs the ring wearer´s own perception of the situation. No one else can tell whether the 100 on the mobile app tells of excitement or irritation.

A good team is heterogeneous also by the way they react

At workplace it is good to have people with different ways to react. A team with individuals that all have a very mild or a very strong natural way to react, probably is not as productive as a more heterogeneous team.

The Moodmetric measurement helps to understand individuals and personal ways to react. This is important from wellbeing point of view. We should rather challenge ourselves keeping in mind our own physiology and environment, than compare to others.

The Moodmetric daily average level is the most important

The Moodmetric smart ring measures the sympathetic nervous system reactions on a scale from 1 to 100. Counting presumes balance. When the daily average value is around 50, there is enough recovery in correlation to load. The Moodmetric ring users notice the same: the daily average is normally 45 to 55 depending on how well daily load is compensated by rest and sleep.

Levels and fluctuation during the day can be very different between two persons. Both might still feel well and with plenty of energy. If high daily figures are combined with very restful sleep, can the daily average level be the same as with a person with much lower numbers during daytime. 

Below the different persons’ consecutive day and night views, where the daily average for both arrived at 46. In this example both reached good, quite a low average, but with very different daily levels:

The daily average of the Moodmetric index is the more informative, the more the person uses the ring. It is easier to analyse own balance of load and recovery when the ring is worn also during the night.

Feedback from the Moodmetric ring users tells that own perception is in line with the measurement. If the daily average is around 50, the situation and energy levels are normal. Values over 50 for a long time go hand in hand with the feeling of overload and weakened wellbeing. Very low daily figures might indicate depression.

The Moodmetric measurement helps the user to gain balance between load and recovery. The sources of stress and ways to recover are individual. For this reason the measurement data always needs own evaluation. Categorizing and analyzing own life e.g. with the help of the Moodmetric app Diary feature is a way to more balanced life.

The complete set of 5 articles:

  1. Part 1: Fight or flight response
  2. Part 2: Chronic stress – The brain concludes that we are continuously in danger
  3. Part 3: Tools for long term and continuous stress measurement
  4. Part 4: The Moodmetric ring stress measurement and understanding the data
  5. Part 5: The Moodmetric measurement in preventive occupational health 

PART 3: Tools for long term and continuous stress measurement

Stress can be measured in several ways in clinical setting. The measurements done in laboratory  give versatile and accurate information. But as we do not live in a laboratory, they can not interpret the changes in our daily lives. Researchers and individuals need tools for long term and continuous stress measurement.

For decades there has been reliable methods available to measure stress in laboratory setting. These methods  include heart and heart rate variability measurement performed with several accurate sensors. Other heart related tests are blood flow measurements with long term registration of electrocardiography and blood pressure. Additionally there are tests on the autonomic nervous system and biochemical tests. The biochemical tests include hormonal and immunological definitions of blood, saliva and urine.

While servicing hospitals and research laboratories, these methods can not give a full picture on person´s stress level. Chronic stress develops over a long period of time and recovery can take weeks and months. User friendly methods that fit to daily life are needed to measure stress in long term.

Non-intrusive wearable devices are the solution for long term meausurements

People are not willing to make huge compromises when it comes to health and wellbeing interventions. Activity trackers and other wellbeing devices have brought everyone the possibility to understand own physiology. Some of these equipment also draw conclusions on the stress level of the user.

Physiological measurement methods to follow stress levels for weeks or months are not yet available for clinical use. At the moment continuous and long term stress measurement can be done by measuring heart rate variability or electrodermal activity.

Heart rate variability (HRV)

A healthy heart is not a metronome. Heart rate variability means the variation between consecutive heart beats. At rest the variation can be from a few tens upto a hundred millisecons.

Why the heart rate varies

Heart rate variability is a way for our body to regulate optimal blood flow to the brain. The more variation there is between the beats, the bigger the activity of the parasympathetic system. This means that the recovery functions of the body work well.

When action is needed the rest-and-digest functions of the body are shut off. Heart rate variability gets smaller for instance during the fight or flight response that activates the sympathetic nervous system. The heart pounds with regular beats. This is because in a fight the purpose is to stay alive and not fine tune bodily functions.

Factors affecting HRV

The heart rate variability is affected mostly by age, gender and pulse. The higher the age and the resting heart rate, the smaller the variation. Additional factors are physical and mental stress, smoking, alcohol and coffee, overweight, blood pressure and glucose level, infectious agents and depression. Also the inherited genes affect the heart rate variability significantly. Individual variation is large and therefore there are no clear set limits. During measurements it is important to pay attention to rest and physical load. When the heart rate goes up due to physical strain, the heart rate variability decreases.

Counting heart rate variability and accuracy of measurement

Heart rate variability as a phenomenon is known since 1960’s and applied in health care for a long time. The most accurate way for measurement is the electrocardiography (ECG or EKG). For wellbeing uses there are several devices available, out of which most accurate are those measuring from chest. Wrist and finger measurements suffer in accuracy especially with high heart rates due to movement of the measured spot.

Heart rate variability is measured by calculating the time interval between heartbeats. This is normally done by looking at the R spikes on an electrocardiogram, the R-R interval. Mathematical methods are needed in the analysis of the heart rate variability. With advanced algorithms it is possible make deductions about a person´s physical and mental load.

Heart rate variability is high at rest, when the person is young and healthy and with a good physical condition. Low HRV might indicate stress for a healthy adult.

Electrodermal activity (EDA)

also: galvanic skin response (GSR), skin conductance response (SCR)

A physiological phenomenon known since over hundred years is electrodermal activity. Psychological factors affecting the conductance of skin was found almost simultaneously by a French neuroscientist Féré (1888) and a Russian physiologist Tarchanoff (1889). The first observations had been done already over ten years prior by a French threrapist Vigouroux. Out of several naming conventions for the phenomenon  the electrodermal activity (EDA) prevailed.

Electrodermal activity from physiological point of view

The skin  becomes a better conductor of electricity when the eccrine sweat glands process sweat to skin surface. Eccrine glands are innervated by the sympathetic nervous system and are part of the fight or flight response system. This makes electrodermal activity (EDA) important from stress measurement point of view. The major reason for it’s importance lies in the fact that EDA is solely mediated by the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, thus being not subjected to parasympathetic influences as most of the other autonomic measures (1).

EDA measurement

There has been equipment available for laboratory level EDA measurement since founding of the phenomenon. Usually the measurement is done from palms or fingers with electrodes that are connected to an amplifier.

An unprocessed EDA signal is very sensitive to movement, so in most test settings the subject is requested to stay still. In the past this has limited the EDA measurement mainly to laboratory.

Lately the wearable technology development has made improvements also to EDA studies. Advanced algorithms and signal processing have made it possible to compensate the movement artifacts, and wearable sensors have been brought to market.

Measuring EDA as a continuous long-term measurement in a non-intrusive way is desirable for many different fields of research and diagnostics (2). Studies in psychology and behavioral sciences benefit when the measurements can be done in normal daily life, outside laboratory. Additional advantage is that wearable technology enable research with moderate equipment cost.

Measurement units, parameters and accuracy

EDA measurement registers the inverse of the electrical resistance ‘ohm’ between two points on the skin – i.e., the conductivity ‘siemens’ of the skin in that location (3). The recorded EDA signal has two components. The slowly varying tonic component of the EDA signal represents the current skin conductance level (SCL). The skin conductance response (SCR) corresponds to sympathetic arousal (1). It is a spike-like component whose amplitude and frequency indicate of the person´s activation level. EDA does not tell whether the person is experiencing something positive or negative. Raise in activation level can be due to any strong emotion such as excitement, joy, fear and anger.

The accuracy of the measurement depends on the equipment used, stability of the environment and the point of measurement. The preferred sites for EDA measurements are located in the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet (4). Age and gender affect EDA somewhat. External temperature and movements of the person have an effect on the measurement signal that needs processing to draw the right conclusions.

EDA measurement can be very accurate also in wearable form. Field studies with these devices are possible already today.

Applications of EDA

Electrodermal activity has a lot of clinical and practical applications, with polygraph one of the most well known. In psychological research the phenomenon has been applied since it was first found. Later the uses have been across many fields e.g. gaming and user experience, marketing research and in top sports.

The next article in this series tells how the Moodmetric ring measures electrodermal activity

References:
(1) Electrodermal Activity (Boucsein, 2012)

(2) Feasibility of an Electrodermal Activity Ring Prototype as a Research Tool (Torniainen, Cowley, Henelius, Lukander, Pakarinen, 2015)

(3) A short review and primer on electrodermal activity in human computer interaction applications (Benjamin Cowley, Jari Torniainen, 2016)

(4) Electrodermal Activity Sensor for Classification of Calm/Distress Condition (Zangróniz et al., 2017)

The complete set of 5 articles:

  1. Part 1: Fight or flight response
  2. Part 2: Chronic stress – The brain concludes that we are continuously in danger
  3. Part 3: Tools for long term and continuous stress measurement
  4. Part 4: The Moodmetric ring stress measurement and understanding the data
  5. Part 5: The Moodmetric measurement in preventive occupational health