Microsoft patents tech to combat employee stress

Based on biometric data, the patented technology computes an employee’s "anxiety score"

A young professional showing signs of stress at work

Microsoft’s new patented feature focuses on employee health and well-being and suggests a break when workers become stressed.

In its patent titled “Emotion Detection From Contextual Signals For Surfacing Wellness Insights,” the tech giant describes a “wellness insights service” that amasses biometric data from a range of wearable devices, including fitness trackers, digital assistants, and smartwatches.

Blood pressure and heart rate monitoring data obtained from wearables helps detect an employee’s stress levels during work tasks, like drafting and reviewing an email, attending meetings, and more.

If the system determines the anxiety level associated with a task is above a specific threshold, the wellness insight service may trigger a wellness insight related to the work event.

For example, if the service receives information from an email application indicating a user spent more time reading an email from a manager than a predefined threshold, the user's blood pressure and heart rate for that particular time will be evaluated.

The wellness insight solution may “additionally or alternatively include recommendations for increasing a user's wellbeing when experiencing stressful work events.”

For instance, if taking a long time to read an email is an anxiety cue, a wellness insight could be “Consider taking a break and coming back to it later." What’s more, insights can surface at set times and days.

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Additionally, the service may include natural language processing models to categorize language inputs into angry, happy, and indifferent tones.

“It has become common for enterprises to make substantial investments in their employees' health and wellbeing,” said Subramanian Ramakrishnan, principal group engineering manager at Microsoft.

“Enterprises understand that such investments are worthwhile because they are better able to retain talent. Additionally, the work product from healthy and happy employees is generally better. In an enterprise workplace, emails are a primary mode of communication, and a great deal of employee time is spent interacting with email clients. Email-related anxiety is a pressing problem that impacts employee productivity and health,” Ramakrishnan added.

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