Cognitive function: a behind-the-scenes look at a workplace wellness pilot program

By Dan Welshons | April, 27 2021

Achieving no harm. These are words we live by, imprinted in our Manifesto. Promoting this ideal, workplace wellness has taken center stage as a key focus area of business mandates. Our commitment to health and safety is, and always has been, a core value, as are finding ways to improve performance on projects.

Recently, Hatch—working through its investment arm Canadian Shield Capital—invested in Cambridge Brain Sciences (CBS) to accelerate a technology that will help us understand the cognitive function and employee fitness for duty, particularly before the start of a workday.

The financing will allow Cambridge Brain Sciences to delve into and further apply their technology to the digital health trend, placing particular emphasis on mental health, which has been exacerbated by the recent global pandemic. Our collaboration is building on a pilot program aimed at addressing workplace mental health and safety both in the office and at project sites. The program, still in its early stages, endeavors to prioritize safety through data capture and assessment. James Marzocca, Global Managing Director, Project Delivery at Hatch, remarked, “Mental health and safety are central themes for Hatch, for our clients, and our people. We see great potential to apply CBS testing as a non-invasive diagnostic to assess fitness for duty for individuals reporting to worksites where mental alertness is essential for their own safety and the safety of others.”

Why is cognitive function important to understand and how does it affect the workforce?

We live in a world of constant distraction and information overload. We all have shifting priorities and responsibilities that extend beyond the work we do. It should come as no surprise, then, that there are so many reasons why people make mistakes on the job, sometimes endangering themselves or others. Distractions and issues like anxiety, high levels of stress, substance abuse, lack of sleep, and increased use of electronic devices and divided attention, among others, will always exist. While a workplace can never fully eliminate distraction, we want to explore opportunities to assess people’s readiness for work, regardless of the reason, and guide people in the right direction to avert risk and prioritize safety.

While there is a science behind our behavior that CBS can examine, from a business perspective, we know our clients are increasingly interested in being aware of employee wellness and its impacts. There’s an appetite from the operational perspective to limit risk. In addition to the massive benefit of employee safety, there’s also huge money to be saved as emphasis is placed on employee wellness management and rehabilitation, versus the potential catastrophic consequences of staff not being able to perform on the job.

How does it work?
Hatch and CBS completed a six-to-eight-week pilot program in Canada that performed cognitive testing on roughly sixty-to-seventy participants. Using iPads connected to a database, the process analyzed how ready or prepared participants were to make decisions by answering a series of challenging cognitive tasks. The results were then generalized using data tags and reviewed. Overall, the results of the pilot program were positive. Participants were surveyed and it was found that they were more likely to take the necessary steps to ensure they were coming to work to perform their best as a result of the program. While the pilot program focused on data capture, developing the overall strategy, and ensuring data confidentiality, the key focus ties back to our commitment to the health and safety of our people.

Further data is a vital component in achieving success and affecting the positive change we want. Longer-term data analysis will aid in providing clarity into benchmarks and assessing common challenges and being proactive versus reactive. As this program is still a work in progress, examining what we need to implement to make participants feel comfortable and have full confidence in the process is essential.

"We are very excited at CBS to build upon the earlier successful Hatch pilot to create a quick and easy-to-use tool to help ensure all persons arrive at a work site fit for duty. The unique knowledge and expertise of Hatch will allow us to quickly develop and launch a product that builds on the decades of science behind the CBS assessments, while meeting the unique demands and realities of complex work sites," said Marc Lipton, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of CBS.

What’s next?

We know our people are our most valuable asset, and taking care of their safety is paramount. By introducing our clients and staff to this program and collecting the data we can, we can more efficiently predict safety risks and outcomes—particularly as we navigate through unprecedented times with many new challenges and distractions. Of course, the program itself won’t come without its challenges. We’re still in the midst of perfecting the data collection process and finessing our use of the technology. Participation might be met with skepticism, and that’s natural. But this can also serve as an opportunity to encourage important, destigmatized conversation. An opportunity for human interaction. An opportunity to benefit everyone. An opportunity for positive change.

There’s a lot of work to be done, but we’re making great strides. Let’s dig in.

About Cambridge Brain Sciences

Cambridge Brain Sciences is a leading online brain health assessment platform that accurately quantifies brain function and brain health. Our assessments have been taken millions of times and used in over 300 studies published in leading academic journals over the last thirty years. Owing to its years of rigorous academic development, CBS possesses one of the world’s largest normative databases on cognitive function developed from a database of 10 million+ cognitive task scores. Our proprietary assessments are used by healthcare practitioners treating mental health conditions, brain injuries, and ageing patient populations throughout the world, as well as by leading academics and research institutions. The tasks were developed by Professor Adrian Owen, the Chief Scientific Officer at CBS. Professor Owen is the head of the Owen Lab at the Brain and Mind Institute, a cutting-edge cognitive neurosciences research center at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada.

About Canadian Shield Capital

Canadian Shield Capital is a long-term private equity and growth capital investor focused on identifying and leveraging major demographic, social, and macroeconomic trends. Partnering with great management teams, who possess strong and stable business models, they work with management to build those business sustainably through thoughtful analysis, planning, and execution. Canadian Shield Capital supports their partners with capital and expertise to build networks, improve processes, implement new technologies, refinance, and adapt to changing market dynamics, leveraging their close relationship with Hatch wherever possible.