In the past few years, an enormous potential for digital health interventions (i.e. interventions delivered via digital technologies such as smartwatches and smartphones) became evident. They provide effective, cost-efficient, safe, and scalable interventions to improve health and healthcare (Murray, 2017). Studies have shown that such interventions can be used to promote healthy behaviours and improve outcomes in people with long term conditions such as mental health problems (Aboujaoude, 2020). A burn-out is a mental health problem linked to chronic stress and improper stress management. A recent study from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work showed that 40% of employees believe that insufficient efforts are made to deal with work-related stress at the workplace. Moreover, more than 60% of employees experienced stress at work on a regular basis, independent of gender, age and profession (EU-OSHA, 2018). Altogether, both the growing interest in the use of digital technologies and real-world data, as well as the strong relevance for employers to invest in stress management at work, led to the initiation of #stressmaster by the Modis Innovation Lab*.
#stressmaster is an in-house, small scale, digital health experiment focusing on stress and stress management. It was developed in co-creation with XAOP, an organization that creates science-driven software for life science research. Objective stress measures were obtained using smartwatches. These measurements were complemented by subjective stress indications via questionnaires. Personalized, daily interventions were implemented as a stress management tool (mindfulness, daily sports activity, attention to sleep hygiene). The goal was not only to create awareness about stress at work and potential stress management techniques, but also to provide insights to the participants on how the collected stress measures are linked and on the effect of the personalized interventions. It was not the intention for #stressmaster to be a full fletched scientific study as the devices used are not medical grade and the group of participants is too small to draw conclusions. However, using aggregated and anonymized data of all participants led to interesting empirical observations. A notable observation was that more than half of the participants showed a reduction in perceived stress levels post intervention period. Although no changes were observed in objective stress measures post intervention, there was a slight reduction of time spent in the high stress zone and an increase of time spent in the low stress zone when participants worked from home or on days with stress management interventions.