Tired and Wired: How Data Can Boost Well-Being

We've all felt it at some point this year: tired and wired. This episode is all about data and well-being. Join host Melanie Green as she embarks on a two-week experiment with wearable tech to gain a little insight into her own well-being.

May 26, 2021
S3: Ep5

Executive summary

  • Hear from Red Bull Racing Performance Coach David Osgathorp on how he uses well-being data to do his job and empower his team
  • Gain insights from Amy Haworth, Senior Director of Employee Experience, on how she uses her well-being data to make changes in her daily life
  • Receive advice on how business leaders can keep the well-being of employees front and center

Featured voices

David Osgathorp
Performance Coach
Red Bull Racing

Amy Haworth
Senior Director of Employee Experience

I’m Melanie Green. You’re listening to Remote Works, an original podcast by Citrix.

Today, it’s all about data and well-being. You know, tracking things like how many steps you take in a day, your resting heart rate, your sleep schedule.

Sleep is something I’ve been having a lot of trouble with lately.  I’ve been tired during the day - and it’s starting to get in the way of my work.  Turns out I’m not alone. 

Recent studies suggest that for many working remotely - the average work day is getting longer.  The line between work and home life has drastically blurred.  We answer emails while we’re cooking dinner. We check notifications from the moment we wake up.

New research from Microsoft offers some insight into why that is. Back in January, thirty thousand employees in thirty-one countries were interviewed about how work was going.

While nearly three quarters of them want flexible work to continue, there were some alarming trends. Meetings are lasting two and a half times longer than before the shift to remote work. People are sending more chats outside of business hours.  And a lot more email. The research found that 40.6 billion more email messages were sent in February 2021 compared to February 2020.

Let’s face it. More email - more meetings - more distractions - we all need as much help as we can get, knowing when it’s time to shut down and tune out. A lot of us are trying to find our way in the new world of flexible work. And it can be tough. 

But there’s a tool that can help us get there: data. Data can help us track our behaviour -- and hopefully make positive changes.

My search for data led me to teaming up with an employee experience expert to try an experiment. We both tried the latest in wearable tech to learn more about how our bodies and minds work.



I'm so excited to debrief this experience with you, because I feel like I've learned so much, but I haven't had anyone to talk about it with.



Amy Haworth is Citrix’s Senior Director of Employee Experience. Both of us spent two weeks using a wearable device called the Oura ring. It keeps track of our sleep schedules, heart rate, movement. It's like a one-stop wellness tracker.  


And I have to be honest, it was more than just pure research. I’d been feeling tired and dragged out during the day. So I was hoping it might help me get on track. 


We both kept track of the experience. We learned a lot about how to keep healthy in a flexible work environment.


Amy kept an audio diary of her experiences.


Here’s one of her first observations, recorded with her Dad.



It's fun to see what you do during the day and then how it changes how you sleep.


And yesterday I slept a little bit longer, but my efficiency wasn't as good. And it told me when I woke up and they’re like, you don't want to take it easy today, or you might feel a little tired. I ended up taking a nap yesterday and I felt like I had permission to take a nap.


I was like, Oh, well this is warranted. I'm going to do this instead of having another cup of coffee. Cause actually the coffee's not going to solve the root problem.





Well, after our two weeks of wearing the rings Amy and I got together to talk about data, well-being, and how it can help us work - and play better.


We talked about what stood out most for Amy as she got used to wearing her ring and seeing all the data.



After day one, it told me how much inactive time I had on my first day wearing it. And I was absolutely horrified.


I felt like it was a wake-up call. And we will talk about behavior change, but that was, I felt shame, actually, I will put that word on it. So that was interesting. And then the other piece that I was incredibly fascinated by was the sleep. That became probably my obsession, even more than the activity, was the sleep.


And I think one of the pieces is because we don't get to see ourselves sleep.


And one of the things in addition to shame that I feel like I garnered initially was a sense of permission. So if my ring was telling me that I had eight hours and 26 minutes of inactive time, it helped contrast the view of myself that I have, which is I view myself as an active person. I run every day in the morning, it's part of what I consider to be my job, because it's how I know I perform best.


And so I was thinking I was pretty active. In the workplace I would walk between meetings and walk to the parking garage, but it's not like I was working out at lunch or anything, or saw myself as, as exponentially more active. But the truth of the matter is my data is telling me, my routine has changed a lot.


And so I did start to give myself permission to go out for even 15 minutes, 30 minutes, at least three days a week, and just walk in the middle of the day. That was big. The other thing that I experimented with is how having a glass of wine impacted my sleep.



Oh my God, me too. Sorry



No this is great. I feel like we are kindred spirits. I'm so glad we got to do this experiment together. Oh my gosh.


I'm looking for other relaxation rituals that I can replace that glass of wine with, especially now knowing how it impacts me when I am not even looking. It’s a huge motivation to trust that science and to actually now it feels like an investment in me by making other choices.


I also started going on short bike rides with my son. I also read the book Burnout and learned that it's a wonderful way to complete our stress cycle through activity at night.



When it comes to personal care and wellness, knowledge is power. The data from the Oura ring helps me focus on my well-being.


So, I understand how data gives me the information to make positive changes in my life.


But how does this work on a larger scale?


It’s great that I’m skipping a glass of wine during the week -- but let’s pull back the lens a bit.


Wellness data has the potential to give you the edge in some very intense situations. I want to introduce you to someone who helps people in those intense situations reach peak performance. He uses large scale data to get there. 


David Osgathorp is a human performance coach at Red Bull Racing in the UK. His job is to be laser-focused on the well-being of one of the world’s highest achieving auto racing teams - and the employees that support them.    



It’s amazing, isn’t it. And I guess, you know, that that sort of comes down to three main areas where I want people to improve in, in ways where they can move better and they can eat better and they can recover better. And that in a nutshell is kind of what I, I look to do across the team. There's 800 people that essentially are responsible for two drivers in two cars.



When David says the team - he’s talking about the people working in everything from manufacturing to aerodynamics, to race engineering and marketing. The stakes are high if someone on the Red Bull team has an off day.  So David recently started using data monitoring to help support the well-being of employees.  Now, some of the team members are wearing the Oura Ring. As I now know, the ring captures A LOT of information - twenty-four hours a day.  David Osgathorp said that having access to that dayta - allowed him to support his team better. Especially when the UK was in lockdown and he couldn’t see people in person.



I've got dashboard access to, I think we've got about 50, 60 people on board now, and I can just click on and just see, not only how did someone sleep last night, but what's their heart rate doing? What's their body temperature doing? What's their heart rate variability, which is a measure of stress. How much deep sleep, how much REM sleep I could just at the click of a button, I can just kind of understand where everyone is at, at this point.


And then we can just flag if people are struggling, what do they need to do? Or what's the possible causes of that?



For those of us who aren’t Red Bull Racing engineers or number nerds, I wanted David to break it all down a little bit more.



Just open that app first thing in the morning and you get what Oura determined is a readiness score. And it's a score essentially out of a hundred and anything over 80 means today's going to be a good day and sort of really push yourself as much as you can. And anything sort of under maybe 65, just ease off, ease off a little bit. 


David Osgathorp specializes in pushing his clients to achieve their full potential - and helping them stay in top form. It’s fascinating, but most of us lead more pedestrian lives. So what happens when David, human performance coach -  shifts his focus to a regular flex-work type of person. Someone like me, for example.


When I talked to David, Amy and I had both settled into our two-week experiment wearing the Oura rings.  I wanted to tap into David’s expertise to see what could be learned about well-being.  So - I gave David access to all of my info. 



We're at the part that I'm a bit nervous about. So I've been wearing the Oura ring for just under a week. I'm dying to know your thoughts, keeping in mind, I'm clearly no athlete. What did you notice?



Well, I mean, I don't know if this week is a kind of typical week for you.



I am a bit busier than usual this week.



Yeah. Okay. All right. So did you think you got enough sleep this week?



I had a broken sleep, I think this week.



Okay. Yeah. Okay. So you averaged about six and a half hours sleep? Probably just about enough to kind of, you know, get by. You probably could do with a little bit more.



Hmm, go on. Do go on.



Okay. All right. Let me, let me dig in a little, okay. So let's start with, with the good, okay. So deep sleep was good. REM sleep, not so good. So we're looking for a similar sort of level 90 to a hundred minutes and you kind of averaged about 70 minutes across this week. All right. So, um, that would be a little flag that we'll, we'll put up and we'll come back to that. All right. So the other things that I'm kind of really keen on is looking at that, that quality of sleep.


And I kind of call what you exhibited like the tired and wired kind of state.



Tired and wired? Ouch.

Okay, maybe that’s true. But I know it’s not just me. This is a stressful time -- and it’s having a physical effect -- not only on me, but on everybody. And one of the biggest challenges for a lot of us -  is getting that good night’s sleep. That has a pretty direct impact on work - and life.



Okay.  The, probably the biggest thing though, or there's a couple of things here, the wake ups, you're kind of waking up on average this week, five times a night. So you’ll wake up and then you’ll doze and then you’ll wake again and you’ll doze. And all of that kind of leads to probably not feeling great first thing in the morning.  But there’s the biggest thing that I’ve found with you.


So if you can picture what I'm going to talk about is your resting heart rate. So ideally that resting heart rate, your body should be at this lowest resting heart rate about the middle of the night. So we start off at that normal level and then it drops down to that lowest point. And then it creeps back up just as we're kind of waking ourself up in the morning. So picture like a hammock type movement on there, okay with your heart rate. Yours is more like a ski slope.


So it starts really high and then it just gradually lowers and lowers that it's actually at the lowest point just before you wake up. And that's basically going to say that when that alarm goes or when you get up, you're just not going to feel like getting out of bed. You're not going to feel that much energy. Is that, would that be a typical kind of behavior for you?



Yeah. I've been working on that actually, interestingly, over the last six months. You know, I've done some of the things you suggested. Like I don't look at my phone for 30 minutes. I try to get out and do stretches in my yard, et cetera. But yes, that is very familiar for me. Certainly.


DAVID: So. Okay. If you don't look at your phone for 30 minutes, but where is your phone at night? Is it in your bedroom?


MEL: Yeah, it's right next to me.


DAVID: Okay. So this, honestly, I wasn't going to just jump onto this, but a lack of REM sleep, or like your time to fall asleep, being that tired and wired, and the number of wake-ups -  is almost like there's a text message or there's an alert come through on your phone and the light sleep.


And you know, all of those factors, just point to, you know, someone that has their phone by their side. And honestly, it's such a common thing with so many people.


We live our lives by them, but the best thing you can do is go and buy one of those old school alarm clocks. Okay. Have it across the room from you, not by your bedside, keep the phone out of there. And when that alarm goes off, get up, turn it off. Leave your phone and go and start your day in the way that you can.


You'll probably have a much better quality sleep. You've got that fact where you have to get up. You're avoiding your phone. Listen, the world doesn't stop, okay, because you don't respond.  I know we're all super important, but honestly, if a message comes through at 2am it can probably wait till seven or eight o'clock in the morning for you, you know?



Message received.  Loud and clear.  And it’s not like I didn't know that having my phone by my side all the time is bad for me.  I’ve been bringing my work to bed with me every night.   I check in on Slack at all hours - I’m scrolling through headlines constantly.  But actually seeing the data - and talking to David Osgathorp about it, brought it home.  And made me realize, it’s taking a toll on my sleep - and my work.  The data from the Oura ring has made that clear.


I realized that for a long time, I’d been feeling -- just like David said - tired and wired. 


But even with these clear benefits, I wasn’t sure where I stood on having all this health data being collected -- literally every step I take. There’s no cut and dry answer - but it comes down to assessing just how it can impact your life.



Things like the Oura ring can be slightly invasive. And it's quite interesting having these conversations at Red Bull where people were like, no chance, mate, you are not getting access to my sleep and that's fine.


If people are open to that, there is so much where it can go and it can support. You’re primarily supporting the individual and then ultimately supporting the organization as a whole, I think it would be interesting. I'm interested to see where it goes. I really believe that this whole pandemic has primarily affected people who have already had underlying health issues and so if that isn't a little bit of a wake up call now for people and for organizations, then I don't know what is really, so I think that hopefully we can take the positives from this.

David Osgathorp sees how wellness data can give his Red Bull Racing team an edge.

But what about the rest of us?

Remember Amy Haworth?

She’s in charge of employee experience for almost nine thousand people. 

That’s no small task. And Amy is always interested in how tech can support the well-being of her employees.



The first thing that comes to mind when it comes to well-being, I think it's about being well, I've been thinking a lot about the word because just like employee experience can have so many different meanings and can also sound like anything and everything. I think well-being runs the same risk. And what I've been thinking about, especially in the last couple of weeks is how do we turn it into a verb? So how do we shift the language of the label even to make it about being well, because it is an active state. And so breaking that apart and really thinking about the intersection of employee experience and well-being is in emotional moments. So these moments matter, whether it's at an intersection with the physical workplace, whether that's home or office, or it's an intersection with your digital technology and does it work or does it not, or an intersection with a  manager or between colleagues. Those are so rich in emotion.


And for the first time in a long time, I think we are truly reconciling the fact that work and organizations are ecosystems. And when one piece of an ecosystem goes offline, the whole ecosystem breaks. And so having employees that feel healthy and satisfied means that the other pieces of that ecosystem also get to thrive.



You just touched on this, but how do you see well-being data playing a role in employee experience strategies moving forward?



Giving employees the opportunity to opt in and say, yes, much of our conditioning over the last decade when it comes to technology has been about opting in, you know, personalizing our settings. Who do we share what with? And so we're very programmed already to do that. Is it possible that well-being data becomes one of those choices that employees have? And I am hopeful that we can make that data so useful to employees that they see it's a benefit to have this data.



Why is it especially important now for companies to think about putting resources into supporting wellbeing?



Yeah. There's a lot that employees are carrying and I say employees and, and what I really mean is people. With the additional stressors, I almost feel like it's like the tide went out, you know, when you're at the ocean and standing amongst the rocks and the coral. And as soon as that tide goes out, you see what was there all along.


And as we have pushed employees with, with workloads and as we've re-imagined routines as we've introduced additional responsibilities, like a virtual school, we're really going through a transformation.



And we need to care for ourselves during that process and organizations have the opportunity to also show that we care about our employees and we're listening to what the progress of that transformation feels like, what it looks like, what sorts of new resources are needed for a world that didn't exist before.


I was in a conversation yesterday with an employee who is fairly new in his career. He's been in the workforce about 18 months since he graduated from college. And one of my favorite questions to ask, because it is just surfacing such rich, rich data, is if you were a manager right now, what would you focus on?


His particular suggestion was to be very explicit about no emails after a certain hour or as a human, if it was me, you know, I'm not going to be available from 4 to 7pm.


I think what is going to happen is we're also going to need to be more aware of what really helps our team run well, what helps us run well, and we'll be able to just raise our level of consciousness about the things that really drive performance all the way around.



I like that. The idea is to use data to help us create a work-life balance. Flexible work means more autonomy -- but it can also mean less down time. That creates the potential for overwork and ultimately burnout. 


Citrix has done a lot of research into how companies can support work-life balance.  They surveyed 783 decision-makers in five countries. They found that wellness programs are among the top practices that differentiate organizations that define themselves as Advanced -  compared with those that define themselves as Learners.


And those organizations that describe themselves as advanced - are sixty percent more likely to use empathy driven activities such as journey mapping.  Design Thinking.  And to have established organizational values.  The research also pointed to the importance - now more than ever - of organizations developing effective ways to actively listen to employees.



Employees love to be listened to if they know you're doing something with that feedback. So if you ask as an organization, how are you feeling?  How have you been doing lately? And you just get the data point, but you don't respond to it, not only does it deplete the trust in the organization but it's really a missed opportunity.


So setting up a rhythm that allows employees to recover, that allows organizations, and keeps pushing organizations to be responsive to the data they're hearing from employees and then really honing in on building this competency of empathy and compassion and partnership as part of our corporate cultures. There's a lot of new data out there that talks about the leadership competencies of the future and empathy - being able to connect human to human.



It might seem counterintuitive, but data and self-monitoring could actually help us to be more human -- to understand and support people’s needs. It’s all about empathy. That’s so important as we try to find that sometimes elusive work/life balance.


Amy reminded me of something that David Osgathorp from Red Bull Racing said. He believes that there has never been a better time to look out for each other.



Now's the opportunity to really look after ourselves and  for organizations to look after our people and ensure that number one, we, we are healthier. Number two, we create these real wellness spaces where people can kind of thrive. And ultimately all that leads to is, is a higher performing organization and higher performing individuals.



And that doesn’t necessarily mean working harder or faster -- it means maximizing our potential so we don’t end up spinning our wheels and running out of gas.

But the reality is that I’m not a race car.


I don’t want to become obsessed about data -- you know, I don’t want to measure myself by just numbers. There’s more to me than just that.


As Amy says, the most important thing is to connect human to human. And whatever tech we use should make that connection stronger.


Bottom line: Whether we use wellness tech to remind us to go for a walk - or just call up a friend to meet at the park, we all need to look out for each other -- and ourselves.



I’m Melanie Green -- hoping to get a good night’s sleep tonight. I bought an alarm clock.  My phone is now in another room at night.  I’m headed out for a walk soon.  You’ve been listening to Remote Works, an original podcast on Fieldwork by Citrix.  Subscribe and come back in two weeks.  That’s at Citrix dot com slash remote works.  Next time - the stats are unsettling. Too many women are leaving the workforce.  It has been called a crisis and a major set-back for women. We’ll talk about how to bring them back.