Automated Stress Detection and Restoration in Office Workers

  • STATUS
    Not Recruiting
  • days left to enroll
    35
  • participants needed
    60
  • sponsor
    University of Southern California
Updated on 20 July 2022
Accepts healthy volunteers

Summary

This study aims at establishing a laboratory experiment that mimics office work stressors, examining the feasibility of automated stress detection, and identifying the most significant physiological and/or behavioral features that can be used to differentiate between positive stress (eustress) and negative stress (distress). Additionally, we will investigate if triggering the olfactory (exposing participants to pleasant smells) senses would help reduce stress.

Description

The experiment is divided into 2 main phases:

The first phase is the eustress-distress data collection: In this phase, participants will complete three conditions:

  1. "No-stress": Participants will sit idle on their desks without performing any task. This is important to record a baseline of physiological signals that will allow us to compare the physiological responses in later stages.
  2. "Low-stress work": Participants will be asked to prepare a brief presentation about a familiar topic (e.g., favorite types of food, TV shows, academic work). A strict time limit will not be provided; instead, participants will be told that they have at least 30 minutes and up to 40 minutes if they need that amount of time to complete the presentation.
  3. "High-stress work": Participants will be required to prepare a presentation about an unfamiliar topic with a time limit of 30 minutes. The topic and the requirements will be carefully established to make the completion of the presentation achievable but at the same time to create a sense of time pressure, heavy workload, and unfamiliarity with the task. We will employ a concept similar to the Trier Social Stress Test, in which participants are required to develop and deliver a speech to a panel. This test has been employed in several studies as a means of inducing high-stress reactions. In our study, participants will be informed that a two-person judging committee will be scoring their work performance by watching through a Zoom shared screen. Participants will be told that their final score will be compared to all other study participants such that the highest scoring individuals will receive an award. The committee's "score" will be presented on the screen beginning at 100 and will be decreased and increased in a standardized manner across all participants. Changes in the score will appear at uneven intervals such that the participants do not recognize a pattern but associate the scoring with the judging committee noticing some sort of work flaw or issue. A countdown clock with time remaining will be presented on the screen, recorded office noise (e.g., printers, distant chatting, computers) will be played in the background, and temperature will be increased outside the comfort range. In addition, participants will be subject to interruptions including pop-up messages, calls or emails every 5 minutes to ask about progress.

During the three conditions (idle, low stress, high stress) participants will be asked 5 questions every 5 minutes:

  1. In the last five minutes, to what extent did you consider the work you are performing as an opportunity or challenge?
  2. In the last five minutes, to what extent did you consider the work you are performing as a source of pressure?
  3. Over the last five minutes, how would you rate your productivity?
  4. Over the last five minutes, how would you rate your mood?
  5. Over the last five minutes, how would you rate your stress level?

The second phase is meant to investigate if triggering the olfactory (exposing participants to pleasant smells) senses would help reduce stress.

For that, participants will be given a task that an office worker usually conducts in their everyday work (e.g., typing a paragraph in a word document, organizing a spreadsheet) for 20 minutes. During the 20 minutes, participants will get exposed to one of the following three

conditions
  1. Control group - 20 participants: No exposure to smells or change in office light settings.
  2. Olfactory group 1 - 20 participants: No change in office light settings, but participants in this condition will be exposed to the smell of natural wood scent continuously. A diffuser with essential oils will be turned on during that time to deliver the smell.
  3. Olfactory group 2 - 20 participants: No change in office light settings, but participants in this condition will be exposed to the smell of Bergamot scent continuously. A diffuser with essential oils will be turned on during that time to deliver the smell.

Following this, participants will be asked to rate their anxiety/stress levels using the state anxiety trait survey and how they perceived the exposure to the scents.

Details
Condition Stress
Treatment Bergamot scent, Natural wood scent
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT05242523
SponsorUniversity of Southern California
Last Modified on20 July 2022

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