For Your Benefit

Monitoring Emotions at Work
New tools go above and beyond wearables like watches.
By Carol Brzozowski
W

ith emotional well-being in the workplace, “prevention is better than intervention,” said one author and entrepreneur.

Marc Brackett, founder and director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, argues in his new book “Permission to Feel” that the workplace tends to deny healing.

“You check your feelings at the door because you’re there to do business,” he said. “What people have to realize is emotions don’t get checked at the door. They are at the seat of every table. They’re on the phone with every client and are influencing all aspects of performance.”

Emerging technologies are helping employees assess the impact of their emotional state on work performance.

One platform in the development stage, Evolve Biologix, uses the heart’s electrical signals through an ECG measurement tool wrapped around the chest to correlate with a range of emotions to develop emotional awareness and learn techniques to manage it individually and in relationship to others.

People already are using devices connected to the body such as a watch, but having something connected closer to their heart is new, said Evolve Biologix CEO Steve Curtis.

Steve Curtis
Steve Curtis
Evolve Biologix differs from other platforms in that while others are self-reporting, its focus is on gathering real-time electrical signals from each heartbeat.

“An ECG wave has different peaks with electrical signals firing through our brain,” said Curtis, whose company is in a corporate environment beta stage as Curtis seeks partners to collaborate on the notion that it can serve as a health benefit. “We’re utilizing data science and machine algorithms to understand the specific signatures of these body systems to draw out emotions, build a group performance dashboard and optimize algorithms that drive content interventions and suggestions at an organizational level.”

An Evolve Power Index score, which is displayed on a phone, represents the user’s emotional level. The higher the score, the more the end user is believed to be in alignment with their emotional state, which can range from shame and guilt to peace and enlightenment.

Marc Brackett
Marc Brackett
Regarding privacy concerns, Curtis said results aren’t connected to individuals but provide a picture of group dynamics down to work groups of three.

“[HR] departments are continually challenged with how to keep innovation alive in their organization, increase the change readiness, manage empathy in environments where people are becoming progressively more technical in nature and how to get people to care about each other and function as a cohesive team,” he said. “It’s imperative to be able to view these kinds of metrics.”

Brackett foresees a time when employee benefits will include more emotional wellness technologies.

“There’s a benefit-cost analysis to taking seriously people’s development of skills, teaching emotional self-awareness and emotion regulation as opposed to treating it once you have a full-blown anxiety disorder or depression,” he said.