We had the pleasure of having Janika Haataja from the Institute of Desing and Fine Arts of the Lahti University of Applied Sciences as a trainee in spring 2017.
Janika is a talented young woman with several interesting works already in her portfolio. We had an initial discussion late 2016 about package design for the Moodmetric ring. We soon found out that our ideas for the visual appearance of the product and related material match well and Janika began with the background study soon after.
Janika Haataja is a graduate from Lahti Institute of Design and Fine Arts, packaging design and branding.
“My graduation project was in a collaboration with a Finnish startup company Moodmetric. The design process focused on enhancing brand image through package design. I designed an e-commerce packaging for a smart ring that measures stress levels. The theoretical part of my thesis is based on the research I did on branding and the role of packaging in a brand image. I also studied stress, stress management and smart technology accessories as well as the role of a package in the out-of-box-experience.”
Janika Haataja´s beautiful graduation project can be viewed here.
– My work environment is loud and distracting, I can not concentrate.
– How bad is it on a scale from 1 to 10?
– Let´s get back to this when it is 10.
Sounds familiar? It is difficult to measure or quantify how the work environment affects motivation, creativity and wellbeing at work. How poor should things get before anyone takes action? On an individual level, getting ill might bring short term help. But doctors can do little beyond prescribing medication, sick leave or therapy.
The superior and company management are better set to take concrete steps to improve the work environment. There are atmosphere and wellbeing surveys, and strategy, vision and brainstorming sessions on how to remove obstacles from productive work. List of potential measures is boundless, from green walls to complete restructuring of the physical workplace and possibly also the organization and work itself.
Can you measure how you are doing at work?
Surveys are the most common way to measure emotional and cognitive load. Interviews, questionnaires and pushing smiley buttons are informative, but focus on a specific moment. Accuracy gets better when repeating surveys often, but subjective comment is always limited. It is affected by many things beside the question asked. A person might give a positive answer just because of being on a good mood or wanting to please the reader. A comment might turn negative, not because of the new tech at the meeting room, but because of being envious about the new car of a colleague.
Physiological measurement devices tell about stress and mental load, but different devices are not all fitting well to measure the knowledge worker´s life. Studying the brain activity would require a laboratory setting and thus be very far from the office. Heart rate measurement in various ways best tell about physical load, and with good algorithms also about recovery. The activity trackers do not describe mental load.
The Moodmetric smart ring is well suited to measure emotional and cognitive load. It measures electrodermal activity that is a phenomenon known in psychological research for over hundred years. The measurement results are available real time on a smartphone screen making it possible to follow own reactions in different places and situations.
A day of a knowledge worker consists of meetings, writing, jamming technology, idea creation, solving problems alone and in a group and challenges requiring fast actions. The Moodmetric measurement gives a stress level reading of 0–100 that is comparable between wearers. The data points out what creates the biggest mental workload. High numbers indicate stress or excitement, low numbers tell about winding down.
The measurement data is stored and can be easily shown to an occupational health specialist or worklife coach. It can for example be demonstrated that the Moodmetric level for an oversensitive person working in an open office is constantly at 100. This indicates extreme cognitive load which might have severe consequences when going on for a long time. If people are physically, mentally or emotionally uncomfortable in the office, they are unlikely to be successful or satisfied with their jobs. The employer understanding the importance of workplace wellbeing could in this example react on time and provide the person with a better suited place for work.
People are happier and more productive when they work in an environment that suits them. The issue is how to understand when the person is in an optimal space. Objective measurements should be taken to use by the side of the subjective ones. People need to be given enough power to affect their own work. Office moves and all the related changes must be managed effectively. Remember that all kinds of spaces are not ideal for everyone and leave room for individual solutions after the transition phase.
Moodmetric is involved in several projects to make knowledge work better. Real time measurement data tells without questionnaires, where the mind is at peace.
Surely I have read about studies saying that women’s stress levels rise when they go home after work to take on the household work, but I didn’t think it concerned me. My work is quite demanding and involves constant change, high tempo and big variation in work tasks, and therefore I have always thought that the greatest stress hits me at work and not at home.
However, now I am proven the opposite, after testing the Moodmetric ring for two weeks.
The Finnish Moodmetric ring tracks your stress levels. By sensoring the skin conductance, the ring measures the body’s ability to conduct electricity – when you stress, your sweat glands activate and your skin conducts more electricity.
The user downloads the data to the Moodmetric app and gets an overview of how the stress levels have fluctuated during the day. This was really interesting to follow!
During the two weeks I made three fascinating observations. The first was that my stress levels reached the highest peak as I entered home. And I do understand why. “Hi mom, nice to have you home, I have a math test tomorrow and I need your help”. “Hi mom, good that you’re home, this form needs to be filled in, and I was supposed to return it already yesterday”. “Hello dear, so nice to have you home, I’m starving..!”
The second observation was that my stress levels were the lowest every time I reached the so called flow state. When fully concentrated on my work, the stress levels sank significantly.
This is in line with what research has concluded about physiological reactions during the flow state; breathing becomes slower and deeper and resembles a meditating person’s breathing.
The third insight was about recovery.
The ring cannot differentiate between positive and negative stress, because the body reacts equally when engaged or eager as when stressed or worried. Regardless, the body still needs to recover.
I am lucky to be able to sleep well, so I usually get enough rest through sleep. However, there were also days when I did not get my stress and recovery in balance. I realized that I need to be aware of this and pay attention to getting enough recovery, for example through meditation or mindfulness exercises to unwind after an intense day.
So what can we learn from this?
It is really important to learn to know your own sources of stress. What causes the most stress in your life? Can you avoid or change those situations? Maybe ask the children to wait for half an hour after you come home before responding to their wishes so that you can relax with a cup of coffee and the daily newspaper?
Try to find out how you can get into the state of flow, and schedule time for those things in your life. For me for example reading a good book, writing or sewing will do the trick.
Make sure you get enough recovery. Stress is not dangerous if you make sure you rest well. If you go into overdrive at times, even if it feels good, you have to unwind afterwards. Otherwise positive stress may develop into negative stress.
The first step to reducing and preventing harmful stress is to understand the mechanisms, both internal and external, that trigger your stress reactions. For this, I highly recommend the Moodmetric ring. It is a simple and well-functioning way to learn more about what causes stress in your life.
Some examples of my Moodmetric data: On the left is the diagram of a day when I wrote content for a marketing campaign in a flow state. On the right a day when I was being creative and had my head full of ideas.
Amy Skogberg is a mental trainer, motivational speaker and marketing manager
The Moodmetric data analytics tool is created to support research and development projects related to EDA (electrodermal activity) measurements.
The tool enables researchers and developers to quickly process and visualize large Moodmetric data sets in uniform manner. It generates both group and individual level reports based on input data from wearable devices. The tool is released as open source for anyone to benefit of the Moodmetric measurement data in various use cases.
Download the Moodmetric data visualization tool instruction here.
In my previous blog post I promised to write in detail how I dealt with my chronic stress last year. As I told, the turning point was the summer holiday when I started experiencing difficulties in falling asleep.
Sleep is the most important part of recovery. I did know that, but one cannot really force herself to sleep and taking sleeping pills was not an option for me. Therefore, I started tackling the stress from another direction.
The very first thing I did was downloading Headspace on my phone. Headspace is an application using proven meditation and mindfulness techniques to train the mind for a healthier, happier, and more enjoyable life. I had tried Headspace before and was already convinced about its effectiveness. Having also tried other guided mindfulness applications I noticed that the voice matters to me! Andy Puddicombe has a voice that is calming by nature 🙂 Mindfulness is our basic human ability to be fully present, aware of our surroundings, and not being too reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on around us. According to my Moodmetric levels, mindfulness is low numbers indicating inactive sympathetic nervous system.
However, after trying mindfulness a few times at home during the weekends, I realized it was of no use. It was really difficult to find a nice and quiet place for a meditation exercise. Normally my Moodmetric numbers go down steadily during meditation exercises, but as constantly hearing kids running and screaming upstairs, I could not concentrate. By accident (I got upset for not being able to concentrate and marched out for a walk), I found out that going out for a walk lowered my stress levels more effectively than meditating at home. I continued mindfulness exercises on work days.
Then I gave up on kettlebell exercises for a few months and started going for walks instead. Before, putting my trainers on just to go for a walk, was never really an option. I had this thought that going ‘just’ for a walk was a waste of (sports) time. It started to become clear for me that exercising is a good way to prevent stress, but if you are already overloaded, strenuous exercise only adds up to high stress levels.
Working less during the evenings was an obvious move of course. However, not always being able to refrain from work, I started studying how different kind of work tasks affected my stress levels. Quite soon I noticed that writing e-mails raised my stress levels easily. On the other hand, design or creative work without time pressure kept my stress levels down. As I talked about this with our CEO she had experienced the opposite – going through e-mail was less stressful for her than any kind of creative work. This is a good reminder of how we are all individuals and should find out ourselves what are the causes of stress and sources of recovery.
Also, working remotely from home helped me to keep stress levels moderate (the kids being at daycare, of course). This is probably explained by the fact that I could solely concentrate on my work without unexpected social interruptions.
In addition, I adjusted my diet a bit. From my previous experience I had noticed that cutting down carbs and sugar kept me steadily energetic. I also started taking vitamin and mineral supplements: D3, B12, magnesium citrate and zinc to fight the stress and help the immune system.
In October, I started seeing clear results with my stress levels. The change had happened in my mind as well – the future seemed brighter again, less worrying thoughts and more feelings of accomplishment. I was able to concentrate better, which had a clear correlation with getting more work done. All this change in my thoughts even though nothing else had changed in my surroundings. Also no difficulties in falling asleep anymore.
Mindfulness was probably the most effective action on my way to a less-stress life. Even though I wasn’t doing the exercises for more than two or three times a week, I felt that it helped me the most. According to studies, it takes 8 weeks to get results. In that sense, I would recommend trying mindfulness even if one can not commit to the exercises every day.
One might wonder why the actions I took seem so systematic and straightforward. Is managing stress really that simple? Yes and no.
Knowledge work productivity and wellbeing have been my area of interest for a long time. I have acquired decent theoretical knowledge of the substance through my work as a researcher, so in that sense I was well aware how to tackle chronic stress as a knowledge worker. In general, the internet is loaded with tips and guidance towards stress free life.
However, effective stress management requires lifestyle and behavioral changes. It is easy to try something for a few times, but the hard part is adopting a lasting routine. I get my motivation to take action by looking at my stress levels on the Moodmetric app.
The idea behind Moodmetric is that everyone should find out what are their individual sources of stress and recovery. What works for me, might not work for you. The Moodmetric ring is an excellent tool to find that out.
The Moodmetric ring collects stress and recovery information in smart spaces in a pilot project starting in February 2017. The real time stress data will be combined to a Smart Office concept by Polku Innovations.
The outcome will be a brand new service where there will be a measurable link between wellbeing of the employees and the space they are working in. The data collected by the Moodmetric smart ring will be combined to a platform by Polku Innovations. This gives the companies unique opportunities to understand how the environment affects the employees and their work.
Polku Innovations develops and offers their customers measurement and data analytics services to a smart office. Their concept uses sensors to collects information such as temperature, humidity, air pressure, light intensity, noise and utilization rate of the space. Data is used to facilitate the daily work and enhance wellbeing.
The Moodmetric app has been developed to be extremely simple. There is a minimum amount of numbers and graphs to observe. The important results become clear when you first open the app.
The main item in the Moodmetric measurement is the Moodmetric level. This is an index derived from the electrodermal activity raw signal.
Indexing the raw measurement has many advantages: it is easy to understand, it is comparable among different users and it is immediately clear how it reflects the wearer´s reaction.
The MM level / the Moodmetric index ranges from 0–100. High numbers indicate stress, excitement or other hightened state or alertness. Low numbers indicate a calm mind. The measurement or the index do not tell if the state is positive or negative. From the physiology point of view, a high number means that the user´s sympathetic nervous system is active. The system is stressed even if the cause would be positive, e.g. if you are very enthusiastic about something. The learning is that One also needs to recover from excitement!
The MM level describes current moment and a few minutes back, and updates continuously. You can follow the changes real-time – what happens when you think of something stressful? A phone call you need to take, something you have forgotten? What happens when you just stare out of the window, and try not to think of anything?
The Moodmetric live curve / The Scope
The Scope is the raw signal of the EDA measurement. Each jump upwards is a reaction of the sympathetic nervous system. The physiological delay is about 1.5 seconds, which means that after a reaction, e.g. getting startled, a jump upwards comes with a small delay.
The Scope is especially important for users that follow closely single reactions. One example would be a UX (user experience) developer, how wants to see how test user reacts with the new updates to e.g. a mobile app.
Real-time data and stored data
The above describes the live functions, where the wearer can follow the stress and recovery levels continuously.
There is no need to keep the smartphone/pad open or near the ring, when real-time view is not needed. The ring stores measurement results for up to 270 hours, but we recommend to download data out a few times a day, to see that the ring contact to the finger is good and results are complete.
The downloading happens simply by pressing the Calendar icon.
All stored information appear as a diagram presentation on a 12 hour clock face view.
The diagram uses the MM level / the Moodmetric index to draw the presentation.
The higher the stress level, the closer to the edge of the circle the figure reaches. The color also indicates the intensity ranging from calm yellow to green, purple and finally red.
Above 75 the color is purple or red and a calm mind, numbers below 30 are indicated as beige.
You can follow fluctuating stress levels throughout the day on the clock face that begins from 6am. By swiping back and forth, you can see the following night, next day and so on. Night is indicated with a moon sign in the middle.
Daily average and step counting
Daily MM is the average Moodmetric number for a particular day. It gives you the possibility to follow the stress and recovery trends, if you use the ring regularly. This number takes into account both the day and night measurement.
Total time tells how long you have used the ring on a given day.
The Moodmetric ring works as a step counter. Steps taken on a particular day is indicated in thousand steps (k).
What do the numbers tell?
Any Moodmetric level, or color code describing it, does not mean good or bad. Important is the total daily load and the amount of recovery. The daily diagram gives a quick answer at one glance: if it is mainly red or purple, the stress levels seem to be high for long periods in a row. There should be some green and beige every day to indicate recovery.
Stress can be high also on free time. Many parents of small children feel that their load is higher at home than at work. If a person feels high stress the whole waken up time, it would be good to think where to reserve time for recovery.
You will need to look at the Moodmetric figures against your own life
Same kind of average stress levels might mean different things for different people. You will need to reflect your life and think of these questions:
How much work load do I have? Is the work load too big to manage?
Is my free time or time at home stressful? Why?
How do I sleep? Do I feel refreshed in the morning?
Are there big disturbances in my life? Are we moving house? Is some of my closed ones ill? Do my children wake my me up at nights?
If there are big things that are constantly in your mind, your stress levels are probably higher than normal. You can do many things to recover, but you need to keep in mind not to require too much of yourself. If for any reason you can not e.g. sleep as much as you wish, you need to learn to take some breaks during the day. Mindfulness and other meditative exercises might be a good way to train your mind to react less to stressful situations. We are happy to help you further to understand your figures and how they relate to you life. Please do contact us at [email protected] !
If you have not yet tried the Moodmetric measurement, check our web shop to know more.