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Opinion Editorials

Stressed about the future? Amazon and Fitbit may have an answer… for a price.

(EDITORIAL) Fitbit and Amazon are rolling out new stress trackers, and honestly? It’s a little stressful to think about, if you ask me.

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Woman in home office space who isn't stressed out.

Let’s get a show of hands, friends: How many of you have been stressed out this year? Maybe just a smidge? Or is it more like, “Omigosh, Imma die of this stress if I don’t get it under control, like, yesterday” levels?

More than likely, it’s probably somewhere between these two levels, perhaps edging closer to one extreme rather than the other. And while the entirety of 2020 can be summarized as Arguably the Most Stressful Year Ever, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to join the panicked, frenzied, anxious masses. Listen, it’s just like your parents once told you — just because everyone else is doing it – doesn’t mean you need to, too.

Whew, yeah. I just cured your stress, didn’t I? You’re welcome. Who knew it was that simple?

Okay, fine. I realize that was an oversimplification of things. Of course, you can’t just casually will your stress away. That’s not how it works. Heck, for many of us, we don’t even realize we’re stressed out half the time. However, even though you may not consciously be aware that you’re experiencing the symptoms of stress, it doesn’t mean that your body isn’t paying attention. And, over time, if your stress remains unchecked? Well, it can lead to some pretty nasty health complications, including ongoing headaches, poor appetite, crummy sleep, and even frequent and unwelcome trips to the facilities. It’s not pretty.

Fortunately for us, there are a couple of new fitness trackers out there whose sole job is to inform you when you’re juggling just a little bit too much at the moment. Both Fitbit and Amazon have jumped on the health tracking train, and while Fitbit is no stranger to monitoring your biometrics (they’ve been around for quite some time now), this is the first wearable made available by Amazon.

Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised by this. Amazon’s been sort of nudging their way into all sorts of markets, kind of like an oversized and cuddly Labrador retriever who doesn’t realize he’s not a puppy anymore and still tries to crawl into your lap every once in a while. Definitely a little surprising when it happens, but not entirely unwelcome.

First, there’s the Fitbit Sense. This handy little device not only helps you monitor your sleeping patterns, how much exercise you’re doing (ahem—none—ahem), your weight, and all that good stuff, but can now also help you figure out how stressed out you are.

The Fitbit Sense comes equipped with something called an EDA (Electrodermal Activity) Sensor, which means that it can tell when your heart rate is up and you’re starting to feel a little heated. If it notices you’re feeling upset, it’ll let you know. But does it run to the fridge and grab the pint of mint chocolate chip for us, too?

The Amazon Halo is something else entirely. While it can detect through a galvanic skin response if you’re feeling stressed, it can also let you know if you’ve become a chonk while in quarantine. No, we’re not kidding. This sucker can actually scan your body and give you a fancypants 3D model of your body. And if you’re feeling particularly masochistic today, you can tinker with that model to see what you’d look like if you either gained or lost weight. Yeah, no, that’s only going to stress me out further. What the heck, Amazon?

So there you have it. If you didn’t know you were stressed out before, learning about these two new fitness devices probably toppled you over the edge into full-blown panic mode. Or, y’know, maybe they didn’t. Sure, having all that information at your fingertips — especially in a time where we’re already glued to (and overwhelmed by) our technology — can lead you to overthinking things… especially if you’re already prone to anxiety.

But what if you use it like it was designed, just as a tool to help you become more aware of your own unconscious response to stimuli?

Look, we’re all feeling it right now. This year has been an overwhelming deluge of stress, and whether or not you need a tracker to tell you about it is nothing short of redundant. That said, if you’re feeling stressed, you’re in good company. Right now, a whopping 83% of the population has admitted that just thinking about the future puts them into paroxysms of stress. And while diving into that pint of ice cream may help you feel better in the moment, there are a few things you can do to help offset your current stress loads.

Vent it out. Talk to a friend, or a doctor, about your feelings. Take it out on the pavement with a quick 5K run. Enjoy a long soak in the tub, while reading your favorite book. Light some candles. But please don’t give up hope.

Yeah, things suck (like, a lot) right now, and the future is uncertain. If buying a ridiculous tech gizmo will make you feel better, then treat yourself. And if you think it’ll exacerbate your stress, well, by all means, skip it. Because, really, is there anything more stressful than paying off your credit card bill after impulse buying a new toy or gadget? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Karyl is a Southern transplant, now living on the Central Coast with her husband. She's proud to belong to two very handsome cats, both of which have made it very clear as to where she ranks on the social hierarchy. When she's not working as an optician, you can either find her chipping away at her next science-fiction novel or training for an upcoming race. She holds an AAT in Psychology, which is just a fancy way of saying that she likes poking around inside people's brains. She's very socially awkward and has no idea how to describe herself, which is why this bio is just as dorky and weird as she is.

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Opinion Editorials

Remote work or no work? Concerns about WFH vs. returning to office

(EDITORIAL) There is an ever-growing divide and concern between employers and employees regarding policies over work in office or from home.

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Work in office with headphones on, making use of flexible four-day workweek.

When the pandemic started and work from home become the uncomfortable-at-first norm, no one knew exactly where the idea of remote work for office jobs was headed.

We know now, and the office just isn’t all it was cracked up to be.

From better views and healthier lifestyles to huge decreases in childcare costs, transportation, and wardrobe expenses, many workers say they’re not interested in going back, and some bosses aren’t happy. Other managers and owners aren’t giving their employees a choice. The remote exception is gone.

In March, Apple CEO Tim Cook told employees to be prepared for a return to their campus in a hybrid model this week.

“We will begin the hybrid pilot in full on May 23, with people coming to the office three days a week — on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday — and working flexibly on Wednesday and Friday if you wish,” he said in a memo sent to staff in April.

Cook is not alone. Across corporate America, management is insisting employees return to the office.

Even President Biden chimed in during the State of the Union speech saying,

“It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again,” Biden said. “People working from home can feel safe to begin to return to the office. We’re doing that here in the federal government. The vast majority of federal workers will once again work in person.”

A Good Hire survey of 3500 American managers shows 75% of managers want a return to the office even though they said productivity did not decline during work from home. 51% believe their employees want the same thing. However, a Future Forum survey by slack found just 17% of employees want to return to the office daily and only 34% of employees want a hybrid model.

The reasons for the disconnect are plenty.

Mother.ly contributor Beau Brink shared in a column last July about the impact Work From Home has had on her employee resource group for people with disabilities, neurodiversity, and invisible illnesses.

“Even though 2020 had been hard, the upside was that we were managing our conditions better.”

Women bore much of the weight of moving work out of the office when the pandemic started.

Overall, women lost a net of 5.4 million jobs during the recession caused by the pandemic—nearly 1 million more job losses than men.

When some who had lost their jobs found new work from home employment, they also found a new perk. A raise because they no longer had to pay high childcare costs.

Employees cite better health as a reason they want to continue working from home as well. COVID numbers ebb and flow, but it’s more than that, they say. They’re able to work out, eat a more nutritious diet, and set a more casual, less stressed schedule.

In her mother.ly column, Brink brings up the fact that the company she worked for actually did better in the transition to working from home. As the Good Hire survey showed, most companies saw the same success.

“Why any CEO would push for a move backward in the name of collaboration makes my head spin.”

The why’s are many. And indicative of a possible shift in how we view work.

If most work moves to remote permanently, are employees entitled to the same benefits they’ve seen in the past? Are they actually employees or contractors?

Those questions will have to be answered. We were on the path to having to answer them before the pandemic.

Remote work isn’t new. The pandemic just pushed it to the norm, but even before COVID, technology changes were opening remote opportunities for employees.

In the Good Hire survey managers who said productivity actually increased also showed a distrust of remote work in general.

Right now though, the survey says,

“As long as there is a talent and labor shortage, employers will still have to be flexible, and even in 100% back-to-the-office situations, workers will still be able to negotiate some remote working scenarios.”

For over two years forced remote meant comfy clothes and fresh air. Will that change? We’ll see.

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Opinion Editorials

Shady salary transparency is running rampant: What to look out for

(EDITORIAL) Employees currently have the upper hand in the market. Employers, you must be upfront about salary and approach it correctly.

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Man holding money in the dark representing false salary transparency.

It’s the wild wild west out there when it comes to job applications. Job descriptions often misrepresent remote work opportunities. Applicants have a difficult time telling job scams from real jobs. Job applicants get ghosted by employers, even after a long application process. Following the Great Resignation, many employers are scrambling for workers. Employees have the upper hand in the hiring process, and they’re no longer settling for interviews with employers that aren’t transparent, especially about salary.

Don’t be this employer

User ninetytwoturtles shared a post on Reddit in r/recruitinghell in which the employer listed the salary as $0 to $1,000,000 per year. Go through many listings on most job boards and you’ll find the same kind of tactics – no salary listed or too large of a wide range. In some places, it’s required to post salary information. In 2021, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act went into effect in Colorado. Colorado employers must list salary and benefits to give new hires more information about fair pay. Listing a broad salary range skirts the issue. It’s unfair to applicants, and in today’s climate, employers are going to get called out on it. Your brand will take a hit.

Don’t obfuscate wage information

Every employer likes to think that their employees work because they enjoy the job, but let’s face it, money is the biggest motivator. During the interview process, many a job has been lost over salary negotiations. Bringing up wages too early in the application process can be bad for a job applicant. On the other hand, avoiding the question can lead to disappointment when a job is offered, not to mention wasted time. In the past, employers held all the cards. Currently, it’s a worker’s market. If you want productive, quality workers, your business needs to be honest and transparent about wages.

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Opinion Editorials

3 reasons to motivate yourself to declutter your workspace (and mind)

(EDITORIAL) Making time to declutter saves time and money – all while reducing stress. Need a little boost to start? We all need motivation sometimes.

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Clean work desk representing the need to declutter.

It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few years. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob, an un-alphabetized bookshelf, or that we’ve put off ‘declutter’ on our to-do list for too long.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, taking time to declutter can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those 3 things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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