Can an mHealth intervention improve activity and reduce workplace stress? ... we're not quite there yet


Background: Work-related stress contributes to chronic stress and is related to poor job performance and negative health outcomes. Employers often hire corporate wellness providers to run programs to mitigate workplace stress by promoting wellness behaviours like physical activity and mindfulness. However, there is a need to evaluate and optimize these programs. The purpose of this study was to pilot test an existing workplace intervention to improve physical activity, leisure walking, meditation, and stress reduction. Methods: Participants were adults reporting at least moderate job-related stress (N = 16) completed an 8-week self-paced virtual program. Weekly modules focused on action planning, stress management, and increasing mindfulness. Using a mixed-methods approach, assessments included web analytics, surveys, and interviews (on program recommendations, likes and dislikes). Results: Finding from the interviews provided suggestions to improve the intervention (e.g., separate health from stress content) and to improve trial conduct (e.g., streamline onboarding process). There were no reported problems with coaching or obtaining data from surveys, interviews, and apps. Preliminary pilot data suggested improvements in participant's wellness behaviours from pre- to post-program: physical activity (d = .28), walking (d=.35), meditation (d=.82), and stress reduction (d = .67). Conclusion: Results provided suggestions to improve trial methods and intervention content. While underpowered, results provide a preliminary signal that there may be some benefit to this workplace intervention. Rather than jumping to the next planned large-scale optimization phase, we plan to iterate through a second pilot phase after making changes to the protocol, apps, and corporate coaching partner.

Acknowledgments: Funding for this project came from a MITACS Accelerate grant