Doing Our Best to Reduce Employee Stress
The launch of a new Cigna stress service isn’t just a first for us but also a first for the world. Our free online StressWaves tool can tell if your employees are stressed or not with a 90-second recording. This is important as our 2021 Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey revealed that 83% of people worldwide suffer from stress. And across the workforce, this can lead to poor performance, absenteeism and staff-churn.
StressWaves is the culmination of a partnership between Cigna and Ellipsis Health, a medical technology developer dedicated to quantifying behavioural health through voice recognition. Doing this isn’t easy.
The Ellipsis team has authored peer-reviewed papers on everything from how quickly an artificial intelligence could read your speech to what kinds of language models might best detect depression and anxiety. “Behavioural health conditions such as depression and anxiety are a global concern, and there is growing interest in employing speech technology to screen and monitor patients remotely,” notes the team in one paper.
But while the science is complex, we’ve tried to make StressWaves as simple as possible to use. After all, the last thing you want for an employee who might be stressed is to make life more difficult and stressful for them. That’s why our test just involves answering two questions, for around 90 seconds apiece – although, in tests, we found many people liked to carry on for considerably longer.
The most technically challenging part of the test is remembering to switch on the microphone. The results appear on screen as soon as the test is finished and we’ve made the scores as intuitive as possible, with a sliding scale from green (feeling mellow) to red (stressed to bits). Most employees will be somewhere in the middle but if run across your entire workforce will help identify who needs support.
Continuing with the ‘easy’ theme, the tool is available to anyone with an internet connection and is free to use, no matter how often they use it. Then, to help employees to better manage and reduce stress, we have created the Cigna Stress Care hub, which contains a range of tools and expert advice which can be used across your workforce.
A problem that is growing
The reason we’re so excited about StressWaves is that stress is a big deal in modern society—and it’s getting bigger. According to the latest Cigna 360 Well-Being survey, global health and well-being is still below 2019 levels despite the impact of COVID-19 vaccination programmes.
Our research showed women had a less positive outlook than men, and those at the beginning and end of their careers were particularly concerned about the future. We also found that working people without children also scored below average on positivity.
Concerns about financial stability were one of the main causes of this negative outlook, and the need to comply with lockdowns and social distancing has dented people’s social well-being. We also found many people were not sleeping properly, partly because of increased stress and anxiety, and this has a clear impact on physical well-being.
It’s for all these reasons that we think it’s essential that organisations have simple tools, such as StressWaves which allows employees to quickly and simply measure their stress levels.
Not just mental health
For a health and well-being provider such as Cigna, it makes sense to tackle stress not just on its own merits but also because of the wider healthcare impact it might have. Aside from the immediate impacts of stress, such as loss of concentration, lower productivity and poor-quality sleep, stress can also manifest itself as other conditions, such as back pain, digestive issues and headaches.
Think of Stresswaves as a simple ‘time out’ that all your workforce can use to track their stress on a daily basis. It will listen carefully (for at least 90 seconds) but won’t interrupt and won’t judge. At the end of the session, it’ll give an honest, informed appraisal. What happens after is up to the employee but we’ve made it that bit easier with our Stress Care hub. And that’s a start.