July 21, 2024
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Software startup’s emails help companies motivate workers


When employees take a break at work, 92 percent of them check Facebook.

OK, that statistic is made up. But the number is surely high, and what isn’t in dispute is that several well-conducted psychological studies at the University of Missouri, the University of Michigan and other institutions have found that Facebook has the potential to make users feel lonely, envious or unhappy.

“You’re seeing everyone else’s high moment, and you’re comparing it to yourself, whether you know it or not. What’s on Facebook is the trip to Fiji, the new baby, the new house, the epic moments,” said DJ Whitmore, operations director at Santa Barbara-based SelfEcho. “Of course that’s not realistic, and you’re comparing it to your life and it’s not a happy comparison.”

Those aren’t the kind of feelings that contribute to productivity, so the Santa Barbara startup has teamed up with a group of psychologists to create a system called UpJoy that lets human resources managers try to boost the mood of their workforces during breaks. The system sends positive content to employees and evaluates their mood before and after.

“It’s a very easy way for the HR manager or wellness manager to provide a structured break to expose the employee to positive media,” said Jacques Habra, CEO of SelfEcho.

UC Santa Barbara psychology Professor Jonathan Schooler is the lead scientist on the project. Even though the content might look like cute puppy videos, it has been vetted by randomized groups for its suitability and scored on a rating system so that the system can be tailored to individual employees.

“Some people really like cute kittens, like Jacques, but for some people cats just aren’t their thing, and they like epic sports moments,” Whitmore said.

The backend of the system has a robust dashboard that lets managers track everything from costs to mood improvements. The system is being used at several Santa Barbara firms.

“It’s a really simple concept that make a big difference in how an organization functions in terms of their culture, their energy,” Habra said.