Burnout among employees is real. Reports suggest work-related chronic stress could cost companies money up to $190 billion annually in reduced production and sick days, not to mention the much-discussed “big layoff” with employees jumping in search of a better work-life balance. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared burnout an “occupational phenomenon”, adding it to the international classification of diseases.
This is a problem that Ambro is looking for a solution, with a platform that promises to prevent employee burnout. The company is demonstrating its wares at TC Disrupt this week as part of the Battlefield 200, and we spoke with the founders before and during the event to get a closer look at an early version of the product.
Ambr was founded in February of this year by Zoe Stones, Steph Newton and Jamie Wood, a trio of former Uber executives who witnessed firsthand the impact of employee burnout.
“Burnout was a problem in our teams, and as managers and individuals we didn’t know what to do to prevent it,” explains Chief Product Officer Wood. “We investigated the causes of burnout and found that burnout is primarily the result of workplace factors such as poor relationships, unmanageable work pressure, poor time limits, and a lack of control.”
The founders, who are all based in London, are making their first hires and raising a pre-seed funding round, which they say will be completed “in the coming weeks”.
Ambr’s technology is currently based on self-reported check-in data from Slack, with a configurable survey-like system for collecting employee feedback.
But while this kind of in-app survey functionality isn’t exactly unique, the company is developing additional tools to proactively identify whether a workforce is at higher risk of burnout. This includes using natural language processing (NLP) to determine whether employees like to talk about what they do outside of work, or whether they always talk about things.
This means using data from an open-ended question in the daily Slack check-in survey, which asks “What are you thinking about today? Share any work or non-work topics.” The idea here is that if an employee just mentions things about work, they are at risk of burnout, although in reality it’s probably an imperfect indication, as people are less likely to talk about personal things with an automated person. survey than they would. being with a human colleague.
While all NLP analytics are apparently anonymized, and the resulting aggregated data is only accessible to management, it could be better applied to more organic conversations within public Slack channels or Zoom calls, although this would obviously pose more privacy concerns. even if the data is anonymized.
This at least gives an indication of the sort of thing Ambr is up to as it aims to automate the burnout risk assessment process.
“We’re exploring other features and integrations that could potentially leverage NLP in the future, but there’s nothing on our product roadmap yet,” said CEO Zoe Stones.
Elsewhere, the company is exploring the use of anonymized data from other workplace tools such as email and calendaring software. This could work in a number of ways, for example it could detect if someone is emailing excessively in the evenings or weekends, or maybe they have wall-to-wall meetings 90% of the week – a scenario that could force someone to work a lot. more than their allotted hours to keep their heads above water.
Wood also said there is potential further down the road to integrate with human resource information systems (HRIS) to identify employees who are not taking their full vacation pay.
Ultimately, this gives companies valuable work culture data, enabling them to tackle smaller problems before they escalate into full-blown problems.
“Nudges, no whining”
But detecting risk factors is only one part of this. Ambr is also working on “nudges” that will serve employees friendly reminders in their key workplace tools, perhaps suggesting ways they can reduce out-of-hours work.
“Initially, we’ll be delivering nudges through Slack, but we’re planning to quickly expand to use Microsoft Teams and also a Google Workspace add-on,” Wood explains. “It’s important to emphasize that nudges are used sparingly – only when we think they can have a meaningful positive impact on behavior. Our principle is nudges, not nags.”
Ambr’s ethos may well be juxtaposed with the myriad of meditative, mental health and wellness apps that have raised a lot of money in recent years. Indeed, Ambr’s approach is more along the lines of, “why fix something, when you can prevent it in the first place?”
“We are beginning to transition to a world of work where employees demand more from their employers – Ambr will enable companies to adapt to this new reality, especially as hybrid and telecommuting becomes the norm and as more Gen-Zers increase the workforce. in the coming years,” said Wood.
In addition to the usual health and wellness players, which Wood says tend to have lower adoption rates because they aren’t integrated into employees’ day-to-day tools, there are a number of startups that take a similar approach to Ambr. This one include Humuthat uses nudges to encourage behavioral changes, although it is not specifically aimed at combating burnout. And then there’s Quan, which makes wellness recommendations to users based on self-reported ratings.
Ambr’s closed beta went live in June this year, and it said it has been gradually taking on new customers from its waiting list, including startups and “later-stage growth companies” worldwide. It is expected to be publicly launched in early 2023.
In terms of pricing, Ambr aims for a standard SaaS model, where customers pay a monthly fee per employee.