Take a Breath: Technology That Calms While Boosting Productivity
JULY 14, 2021
Stress, some may argue, is a necessary evil when it comes to work. In fact, some people even thrive on it. But what happens when it actually hurts productivity? Sometimes, employees get so overwhelmed they even forget to breathe.
Recent reports suggest that Millennials are the generation most overwhelmed by technology. What’s more, Gen Yers are most stressed — a stress that seems to be majorly induced by work. With the growth of technology comes new freedoms for workers, but it also requires employees to be "on" 24-7. As technology continue to evolve, there’s a bubbling fear that generations to come will only be more overwhelmed and more stressed at work — putting them at higher risk for health problems like obesity and heart attacks.
While some companies champion workplace wellness through on-site yoga and other health-related programs, addressing long-term stress can come in many forms. One Stanford professor hopes to reduce workers' stress and help them produce more through a term he coined: calming technology.
The 2025 Workplace
Smart watches are tracking numbers from steps to caloric intake, but what if there was a wearable device that could track your breathing and increase productivity by doing so? Neema Moraveji, co-founder of Breathware and director of Stanford’s Calming Technology Lab, is doing just that.
Though his product is still in beta stages, Moraveji has harnessed a technology that can understand when and how we need to breathe in order to be more productive and engaged at work.
"Calming Technology isn’t about relaxing technology — it’s not about getting everyone really relaxed," Moraveji says. "It’s about understanding how technology can set our minds free from having to accumulate and store so many little distractions. It’s enabling us to be in the moment."
Eastern medicine has long embraced the idea of controlled breathing. With the help of the 1970’s book "The Relaxation Response," author Dr. Herbert Benson introduced controlled breathing as a de-stressing technique. It seems, though, that while most of us generally know we should take a few deep breaths when we get overwhelmed, we rarely do it. Calming technology is meant to help with that: alerting you when you need to breathe and centering you with the help of wearable technology and device applications.
"The technology helps train people," says Moraveji. "It will train a muscle that people have, but are not working out."
Eventually, once enough data is collected from pilot programs being run at Stanford and with Silicon Valley companies, Moraveji is confident that managers can even learn about employee’s breath patterns in order to place them on specific teams — a micromanager may breathe differently than an introvert for instance. These breath profiles could even become part of the hiring process in the not-so-distant future.
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