They say the eyes are a window to the soul. Based on research from the University of Missouri, they might also be a window to the sympathetic nervous system. Dr. Jung Hyup Kim and his team conducted a study concluding that our pupils can indicate how stressed we are – and there’s a way of measuring it.
Now, this undoubtedly has many potential applications, but considering stress has been on the rise for years, the one that immediately came to my mind was how it could affect hiring. Workplace stress, in particular, is a $300 billion dollar industry – a rate that is only increasing.
Consider the following jobs and what they have in common: emergency dispatcher, police officer, firefighter, pilot, air traffic controller, public transport driver, etc. These are all high-stress jobs and involve being responsible for others’ safety. Just imagine the benefits of being able to conduct advanced screenings to identify candidates who are more equipped to perform well under stress.
Well, we can now do that… in theory. So what does this mean for companies going forward?
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It’s not cheap to hire and train people for these types of positions, and to whatever extent it’s possible, such a process could be extremely advantageous for an organization. Of course, the safety aspect is an even bigger concern. It’s one thing when a freshly trained employee quits, costing a business money. It’s a whole different (and more dangerous) situation when a stressed-out bus driver has a nervous breakdown in freeway traffic, or a fireman panics the second before running into a burning building.
The unpredictability with which people react to stressful situations can also manifest in positive – even heroic – ways. After all, adrenaline rushes have saved many lives. But long-term and consistent stress can have negative effects on work performance in the office – even reducing a person’s cognitive ability to react appropriately when emergency situations do pop up.
At least for the foreseeable future, we won’t be able to completely mitigate the human element when it comes to monitoring and assessing stress. Still, enlisting technology to minimize certain risks, both physical and financial, doesn’t sound like a bad thing. Maybe that’s because we’re already so used to doing it.
Additionally, by tracking your employees’ stress reactions you can watch out for signs of burnout, which will help you avoid a mentally overloaded staff, have happier employees, and promote safer working conditions.
All things considered, this particular technology is a long way off from being a staple of work environments or job interviews – or even being proven effective. It is a sign of things to come, though, so hopefully, that doesn’t stress you out too much.