At This Company Everyone Wears a Device That Tracks Their Emotional State

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Oct 14, 2019

What if you showed up to your next meeting naked? It probably wouldn’t go down so well with HR. My team and I keep our clothes on, but we have found another way to practice next-level transparency in the workplace. Through emotional awareness tracking, we’re leveraging cutting edge technology to master our stress levels and ultimately find our way to peak performance as frequently as possible.

I’ll begin with a little story about me. After a terminal illness diagnosis led me down a path of deep and thorough research of alternative ways to heal the body — eventually leading to a spontaneous remission — I’ve experienced firsthand how awareness and control over mental and emotional states affect not only our physical health, but also our life circumstances and relationships. This includes work relationships. Mental and emotional health is often overlooked, or stigmatized, in the workplace. And yet most of us spend more hours at the office than we do at home.

As an entrepreneur who has built multiple companies with a few exits under my belt, I know better than anyone how easy it is to sacrifice emotional wellbeing for career success. It took a life-shattering diagnosis and a long journey back to health for me to realize that true success is only possible through a healthy connection to ourselves and others.

Evolve Biologix, my latest venture, helps to cultivate that connection with machine learning technology. We’re a fully-funded startup in Vancouver that leverages a proprietary heart-rate variability algorithm to monitor physiological coherence between mind and heartbeat and thus delivering a real-time snapshot of one’s emotional state.

My team and I wear the Evolve strap daily. In meetings, we often keep our screens open to the Evolve app so that our level of coherence — or what we call our Evolve Power Index (EPI) — is visible to everyone in the room. This is nothing short of wearing your heart on your sleeve. It’s radical vulnerability.

Is there a place for this level of transparency in the workplace? We believe so. Here’s why.

Tech aided self-awareness

Research emphasizes the importance of self-awareness and emotional intelligence for success in the workplace. This heightened level of self-awareness can be attributed to a number of factors, like family background, natural intelligence or mindfulness practices. The technology we’re developing is an entirely new tool all together. It allows an individual to stay highly attuned to their emotional state throughout the day, which over time increases confidence and conviction. These are individual virtues that make all the difference between a subpar team and a rockstar team. For most of the Evolve team, it has taken very little time and practice with the app to begin to experience the positive takeaways, which have been reported as “emotionally validating,” “incredibly insightful” and “extremely valuable.”

From a leadership perspective, I can check-in with my team’s productivity and mental states (and vice versa) with full transparency. As an example, I recently asked a key team member if she was tired. Her initial response was no. Later in the day, I caught a glimpse of her EPI score. I asked her again if she was tired. That’s when she broke down in tears, and we quickly agreed that she should take a vacation. I knew it would make things challenging at the office, but the difference it made for her overall well-being is what was most important.

Tracking emotional flow

The truth is, asking my team to wear their hearts on their sleeves, is more than just building self-awareness. By listening to electrocardiogram (ECG) signals of the heart and applying individualized patterns of our emotions, Evolve essentially tracks “flow state,” the high-performance state commonly associated with Navy SEALS and top Silicon Valley CEOs. These are more subtle points than just stress.

We’re also developing a “Leadership Dashboard” that allows us to view and monitor individual and group coherence. Measuring how we interact as a team encourages optimal state for employees, while providing new opportunities for everyone to feel connected and focused.

Our content manager, Natalia Gonzalez, wears her Evolve strap daily. She jokingly calls it the “happy machine.”

“It can feel intimidating at first, but once I settled in and got used to it, it felt freeing,” she says about wearing Evolve at the office. Being aware of my emotions allows me to self-evaluate my behavior from an unbiased standpoint. This is not about judging each other, this is about building a team that supports each other.”

It keeps everyone (including me) accountable

Last but not least, when creating a culture that encourages radical transparency, it must come from the top. It keeps me accountable as much as my employees. I probably wear my Evolve strap and openly display my EPI more than anyone. I pick it up to show the room when it drops into the red, and I talk about why I had that reaction. Likewise, when I’m feeling enthusiastic about an idea or a completed task, I make sure the employee sees that EPI spike. That helps to create a positive feedback loop, as well as forces me to provide meaningful explanations for why I may not be satisfied with a situation, project or idea.

Buzzwords like vulnerability and transparency aside, what I’m most excited about is the prospect of quantifying an otherwise nebulous concept. We’re in the lab now to uncover a measurable coherence between real-time emotional awareness and productivity. But to me, the ultimate goal of integrating these types of emotion-based and “flow state” metrics into workforce wellness programs is to create corporate environments that value and recognize employees as ever-evolving emotional humans. Perhaps somewhat ironically, AI and machine learning can help us do just that.