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Most people experience some level of stress in their jobs, but a group of mathematicians believe that have discovered a way of measuring that based on computer use.
Experts from ETH Zürich in Switzerland developed a model that was able to monitor people’s level of stress at work based on the way they type on their keyboard and use their mouse.
Mathematician and lead author of the study, Mara Nägelin, along with colleagues, developed the model using machine learning in an effort to detect stress before employees may even recognise it.
The study looked at 90 participants as they performed typical work-related duties designed to be as true to life as possible. Tasks included planning appointments and recording or assessing data.
As they completed these tasks, participants’ heart rate and keyboard and mouse usage were monitored. They were also asked to report their stress levels.
The group were separated, with half left alone and able to get on with their tasks undisturbed, while the other half were bombarded with additional messages and asked to participate in a job interview.
Results showed that those who were put under more stress had more erratic and imprecise mouse and keyboard behaviour.
Nägelin explained: “People who are stressed move the mouse pointer more often and less precisely and cover longer distances on the screen. Relaxed people, on the other hand, take shorter, more direct routes to reach their destination and take more time doing so.”
The study also showed that stressed people tended to take more frequent brief pauses during typing and were more prone to making errors.
According to Nägelin, the results appear to be a more accurate indicator of stress than other methods.
She said: “How we type on our keyboard and move our mouse seems to be a better predictor of how stressed we feel in an office environment than our heart rate.”
Now, the group involved in the study is testing it in the field with data gathered from Swiss employees who agreed to have their heart rate and computer activity monitored.
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