An app that utilizes data from a wearable and mood-tracking to zero in on causes of stress and find the best solutions to solve them.
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For our ideation class we were asked to come up with a project that focused on the home during the pandemic. While brainstorming our design space at the beginning of this quarter, we found existing stress was compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic—something which we were acutely aware of since it was the fall of 2020 and we’d began our graduate program remote while each member of our team in a different city. The cultural conversation and emerging research at the time was showing that its effect on working parents was even more acute—even while things were too rosy to begin with: parents spent an additional 27 hours each week on housework, childcare, and education-nearly the equivalent of a second job on top of their household responsibilities before the crisis. Close to half of the parents felt that their performance at work has decreased as a result of managing additional responsibilities. Parents who cope with stress successfully can better defend it in the future.
Seeing the enormous burden working parents had, we decided to make an effort to help this vulnerable group manage their stress better.
How might we help working parents of school-aged children alleviate stress?
What stressors do working parents have? Where do these stressors come from?
What are parents’ coping strategies? What is effective and what is not? Why?
What challenges do working parents face when coping with stress?
For secondary research, we first did a literature review on the mental health impact of the pandemic and stress coping/mitigation. Then we conducted three contextual inquiries where we asked parents with a child between the ages of 5-11 (younger school-aged children) various questions and then a tour of their workspace.
“The thing I worry the most is I may not have enough time or do as good as my daughter’s teacher to help her form good habits.”
Interview Subject #2
"Staying at home most of the day without seeing other people that much makes me stressed.”
Interview Subject #1
“I don’t know if me or my wife are going to lose our jobs.”
Interview Subject #2
We started out with a wider lens looking at families within the pandemic in general; nothing too left-field but within the domain of mental wellness within the family. We looked at the long term effects of stress and the way it affects families, both parents and children. For instance, we found a child's happiness is the emotional availability of the parent. Additionally, we looked at coping strategies. We found that there were different categories of coping strategies: problem-focused, emotional focused, approach coping and avoidant coping.
Lastly, we did research on the mental health impact of the pandemic. Since the pandemic was still in its earlier days, there weren’t a great deal of longitudinal studies showing the longterm effects of pandemic stress but there were a good deal of short term studies and think pieces written by people about their own experience. We used all this research to help us narrow in on our primary stakeholders—those who were experiencing the most stress during the pandemic—working parents with school-aged children.
We decided to do a Context Study, that is, interview 3 participants with school aged children between 5-11 year old and then ask them to show us their house/workspace over Zoom/Facetime. We were toying between a Context Study and Diary Study but in the end decided that a Diary Study would be too much of a burden for our participants. Working parents were already incredibly time poor so we didn’t want to impede even more on their limited time. We also thought there would be a lot of drop off if we went that route. Instead we spent an hour asking them questions and having them film their home/work environment while we asked them questions about their workspace.
We wanted to ask them questions for obvious reasons: we wanted to know about their experience and asking them was the best way. However we wanted to also see their environment to see what their pain points were. At this point we were sure if we were going to create a physical or digital solution so we wanted to keep our options open.
During the question phase, we asked questions regarding their typical day, what they did to mitigate stress and how their stress levels compared to pre pandemic times. During the tour, we had them show us their workspace, where their children worked and anything in their space they’d modified since the pandemic started.
Parents’ stresses come from different sources and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to stress.
It's important to have a broad array of coping strategies for stress available and knowing what strategies to invoke.
Parents become mindful to their stress
Parents feel prepared for future stressful events
We had created several more insights in the process of our research but two of our insights proved valuable for the final solution we designed.
We also created two outcomes we'd hope result from our final product.
We wanted our stakeholders to feel safe while using whatever it was we created. Though we didn’t know it at the time of creating this principle, trust is an important tenant to foster with tracking-apps, since so much of that data can be misused.
Our stakeholders were already busy and burnt out, our solution had to be simple and even enjoyable to use.
we didn’t want to just tackle one aspect of stress management. As we’d stated before, there were four types (problem-focused, emotional focused, approach coping and avoidant coping). We wanted a solution that would deal with all four.
We wanted our final product to be charming so it wasn't something purely functional, but also enjoyable to use.
Before voting, we affinitized 90 ideas into 10 categories, grouping similar ideas to make voting more efficient. The overall categories our concepts fell into were games, community, space, task management, solution recommendation, stress tracking, journals, robot, IoT, and course work. From there we voted on categories with a decision matrix, scoring them out of 30 (10 points each) based on our principles and general excitement for a concept. With this method, we selected three concepts to flesh out more: MyPal, Parents Control, and Family Time.
MyPal is a wearable that monitors parents’ stress levels. If stress is detected, the system will collaborate with parents to explore their stressors through probing activities such as diary entry and recommendations for coping strategies/activities based on the types of stressors. This deals with parental stress in a very direct way by literally tracking their stress.
Parents Connect is an app where parents can connect with other families to find co-parenting opportunities. Parents would be able to search based on needs such as childcare, carpools, or finding a family to have dinners with. This deals with parental stress in that it lessens the burden of childcare, which was definitely a primary stressor during the pandemic. We nicknamed this Tinder for parents.
Lastly, Family Time tracks chores and responsibilities for each member of the family. Each member would have a checklist which they are nudged to complete throughout the day. There is also an overall time-spent dashboard for chore comparison between different family members. This idea materialized out of our research on working mothers during the pandemic, who were bearing the biggest burden since they were usually doing the most housework and childcare in addition to their normal work.
In the end we chose MyPal since it directly targeted parental stress and embodied our principles.
Users reflect on their mood at that moment, on a scale from "stressed" to "awesome." This information gets used later on in the analytics.
From a list, user identifies the troubling situation that triggered their current emotional state.
Helps the user become aware of thoughts, emotions and beliefs that they are inputing. Uses both the concept of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and problem-focused coping strategy of stress. They have the option to tag their entries for easy navigation through past entries.
Gives a selection of predetermined recommendations based on their diary entries. Helps users identify healthy strategies to alleviate stress.
Help parents take action towards alleviating stress and reflect. They would go through all their options for stress-relief and add them to their list.
If parents want to explore more recommendations based on stressors parents often experience. Has a complete list off all the interventions available.
Only shows analytics within the timeframe selected. Visible at the top toggle. It will effect all the graphs below.
After the user tries out some recommendations and rates their effectiveness, it will effect the "effective" score. This way, they can see what actually works. In the same way, they can also see what activities case them the most amount of stress. This score is a combination of their diary entries and biometrics from their watch. They can also compare how often they feels stressed versus relaxed.
Since we found that sleep is deeply linked to mood, we decided to also have the biometric tracker track as well. This way the user can see how much their mood is effected by stress.
Collect more data not directly related to specific stress events e.g. cups of coffee drunk in a day.
Flesh out the wearable more to include more screens, other than diary entries e.g. analytics section.
Invite psychologists and therapists to help build up the recommendation system.
Include more moods within the tracking in the analytics section.