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Separation & Solitude in Extreme Psychological Waters

The Vendée Globe represents an extreme version of the isolation the pandemic has caused to the workforce.

@andtheinvisible via Twenty20

Unleash Your Emotional Intelligence Understanding mental health using emotional intelligence technology – an extreme case study.

  • The Vendée Globe is a 24,000 miles (39,000 km) sailing race around the world.
  • Each skipper will compete in his or her own bubble, separated from one another and any other human being for somewhere between two to four months.
  • One team has onboarded an Emotional Intelligence platform to help understand and address the mental toll the isolation puts on the skipper and similarities can be drawn with the separation and solitude this pandemic has caused.

What comparisons can we make between the separation and solitude of the Vendée Globe to the impact of national lockdowns and pandemic-induced isolation, remote working and social seclusion? And what can we learn from emotional intelligence software to help monitor the impact of this on our employees’ mental health?

What is the Vendée Globe?

The Vendée Globe is a 24,000 miles (39,000 km) sailing race around the world. Competitors have to sail single-handedly, taking short bursts of sleep to get by.

Fewer than 100 people have ever completed the challenge.

This race isn’t just about sailing experience and prowess on the water though.

Taking Separation and Solitude to the Extreme

“Each skipper will compete in his or her own bubble, separated from one another and any other human being for somewhere between two to four months, prohibited by the rules from accepting any assistance unless they’re in mortal danger” reports ESPN.

One skipper, Pip Hare – one of the six women in this year’s race – commented that it’s “not just the physicality of being locked down or isolated, but the problem solving, the resilience, the inner will to make things happen…”.

@surfphotoguy via Twenty20

Taking Control of the Mental Health Impact

Having said this, there has been a clear consideration for Pip as to the mental health impacts the separation and solitude will have on her. Her team has onboarded a technology that can understand how she is really feeling; from the videos she shares on her journey.

The technology can interpret the text transcriptions from the video and offer a sentiment from this as to if it’s positive, negative or neutral about what’s being said. It also looks at facial expressions and her tone to identify her emotions.

The Medallia team, (Pip’s title sponsor), can then use this analysis to see if she’s in need of a bit of a pick me up and can act on this by making concerted efforts to call her or getting a nearest and dearest to speak with her and make her laugh for example.   

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Emotional Intelligence Software in the Workplace

How can this type of technology translate to aiding the mental health of our workforce? Well, Pip addresses this a little herself, when she says “This year, the challenges of isolation and the importance of human connection have become familiar to all.” Technology like Medallia LivingLens that automatically analyses emotions, facial expressions, tone of voice and sentiment to understand wellbeing can translate into enabling tailored solutions to aid and support mental health for our employees from the video calls and remote meetings we are so familiar with.

There is no question that this type of emotional tracking technology has some great benefits for supporting the mental health of our employees, but is this a bit too “big brother” and are we at risk of relying too heavily on technology for such a human issue?

Incorporating this type of technology in a hybrid way, that sits alongside a human-approach to aiding and supporting wellbeing could be the way forward?

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