Horizon CDT Research Highlights

Research Highlights

Improving the acceptability of workplace mental well-being platforms through ethical design and use

  Emma Gentry (2021 cohort)

Increasingly, workplaces are shifting their attention towards digitalised solutions, such as wellbeing self-help technologies, that are intended for use by employees to manage their own wellbeing (Jones et al., 2021; Torous et al., 2020). This comes at a time when hybrid and remote working practices are becoming more common as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Productivity and well-being are seen to go hand in hand, making the sharing of mental well-being data in the workplace a highly sensitive topic. Some digital mental well-being platforms reinvent the way in which workplace organisations can support their employees, often through decision-maker dashboards, which can open up new channels for leadership communication (Truong & McLachlan, 2022). However, with growing concerns of limitless worker surveillance (Ajunwa, Crawford & Schultz, 2017) and strains on employee relations as a result of 'dataveillance' techniques (e.g., Ball, 2014), questions remain as to how these platforms can be designed and used to truly fulfil their intended purpose. There is reason to believe that incorrect promotion and use of these platforms may, ironically, have negative implications for employees' mental well-being.

The following PhD explores key stakeholder perspectives towards these platforms, starting with prospective end-users, and seeks to understand how they may affect the actual well-being of individuals within an organisation. Adopting a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches, this PhD predominantly employs low-fidelity prototyping methods from HCI in combination with semi-structured interviews. Survey data will also be captured to improve the relevance of findings to a variety of work settings and roles. A set of recommendations for employers and wellbeing platform developers will be produced at the end of this PhD to foster greater acceptability of these technologies, with a strong focus on users' feelings of control over their personal data.


Ajunwa, I., Crawford, K., & Schultz, J. (2017). Limitless worker surveillance. California Law Review, 735-776.

Ball, K. (2014). The Harms of Electronic Surveillance in the Workplace. https://pen.org/the-harms-of-electronic-surveillance-in-the-workplace/

Jones, N. M., Johnson, M., Sathappan, A. v., & Torous, J. (2021). Benefits and limitations of implementing mental health apps among the working population. Psychiatric Annals, 51(2), 76–83.

 Martela, F., & Sheldon, K. M. (2019). Clarifying the Concept of Well-Being: Psychological Need Satisfaction as the Common Core Connecting Eudaimonic and Subjective Well-Being. Review of General Psychology, 23(4), 458–474.

 Roberts, J. L., & Fowler, L. R. (2017). How Assuming Automony May Undermine Wellness Programs. In Health Matrix: Journal of Law-Medicine (Vol. 27).

 Torous, J., Myrick, K. J., Rauseo-Ricupero, N., & Firth, J. (2020). Digital mental health and COVID-19: Using technology today to accelerate the curve on access and quality tomorrow. In JMIR Mental Health (Vol. 7, Issue 3). JMIR Publications Inc.

Truong, H., & McLachlan, C. S. (2022). Analysis of Start-Up Digital Mental Health Platforms for Enterprise: Opportunities for Enhancing Communication between Managers and Employees. Sustainability14(7), 3929.


This author is supported by the Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Nottingham (UKRI Grant No. EP/S023305/1).