Story Sharing and Visualization to Address Working From Home Mental Health

Collins, Christopher | $50,000

Ontario Ontario Tech University 2020 NSERC Alliance COVID-19 Grant

Since COVID started, Chatham Labs was an early adopter of 100% work from home for all staff beginning in early March, and like many other companies, has worked to improve the WFH situation of their employees by purchasing home office essentials. But one missing piece is access to mental health support for their workforce during these universally trying times. Chatham Labs has approached us with an idea for a technological intervention to help foster sound mental health within a work from home population. We have assembled a team that includes technologists and psychologists, as well as large-scale deployment partners in the city of Oshawa, and the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Science to develop a chatbot-based solution to allow anonymous sharing of the struggles (and triumphs) of working from home and the isolation and challenges it can present. The data collected by the app will be used to create a visualization system to allow users to “find themself” in the data, to see the stories shared by others and help people feel a sense of solidarity and community. Working from home is not a new concept. Feelings of isolation existed before the emergency measures to address the COVID‑19 pandemic. However, the emergency move to work from home has affected many workers who may not be suited to that form of work. The widespread and indefinite nature of the work from home situation has raises questions about the long term mental health impacts for employees across Canada. Our proposed solution will help to address these problems in a prophylactic manner using sound psychological principles and technology. Ontario Tech University will provide design and software development expertise through the Visualization for Information Analysis Lab, which specializes in the development of highly interactive natural language applications tailored to user needs, and the design of interfaces to analyze and understand text data. The Mental Health in the Digital Age lab will provide expertise in the mental health aspects of the project, including the development of the chatbot script, the provision of links to external resources, and the design of evaluation methods to understand app efficacy.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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