Pebble is a tailor-made virtual assistant that aims to serve companies with remote working needs and improve the lives of workers. Pebble promotes happiness and productivity in the workplace by helping employees build meaningful connections, switch between work modes to better manage their work and build healthy work habits.

Amaan Khan
Jing Qian
Zhiyuan Zheng
Deepu James
Visa Innovation Central
Promote happiness in the workplace
Remote workers today are experiencing high levels of stress, longer working hours than usual, distraction from work due to blurred time boundaries and a sense of isolation due to its distant nature. With these growing mental health concerns, the happiness of employees' has dropped dramatically during the pandemic while working from home in the UK. Happiness at work is determined by people you work with and purpose you find in your work. It should come as no surprise that employees who enjoy energetic and pleasant atmospheres among colleagues are happiest. In an age of rising concern for employee experience, here's why employee happiness should be a top priority: Happy employees are up to 12% more productive and are three times more creative than others. Engaged and happy employees improve business profitability by 147%. What if we brought happiness to the workplace?
The Story of Pebble

We brought together 55+ key stakeholders consisting of wellbeing specialists and employees, from apprentices all the way to leadership and HR. With them we conducted research, interviews, workshops and prototypes, and worked closely with the VIC team as a test bench for our design. We brought our Service Design practice to positive psychology and behavioural change science to find out effective and easy ways of promoting happiness in the workplace. By using workshops to conduct interviews, this allowed us to iterate quickly and test hypotheses while conducting in-depth research. We fully integrated users and stakeholders into the design process, creating a solution based on results of co-creation and ideation workshops with our research.

How did we customise Pebble for users?

Based on extensive research and insights mentioned above, we mapped out 5 wellbeing personalities: apprentices, feelers, explorers, doers, and mentors. The metrics we used to create these groups are based on motivations to work, attitudes towards wellbeing activities and proficiencies in work and wellbeing activities. The results of our metrics helped us to create different Pebbles based on workers' unique needs. Each Pebble has unique traits and characteristics; it acts and speaks differently to accompany users through the service. How do they find their own Pebble? We designed a quiz with three categories to support a matchmaking platform based on individual Pebble users. Users overtime will customise their Pebble by answering a question everyday. During this process, users build emotional engagement with Pebbles in day-to-day conversations.

What can Pebble do? Pebble promotes remote worker happiness in three ways.

1. Enable users to focus on meaningful work which promotes long-lasting happiness and productivity. -- In the deep work function, Pebble provides one-minute cognitive fitness exercises that quickly prepare user’s minds and allow them to switch between various work modes to increase focus and reduce distractions. 2. Create informal interactions between colleagues that are needed for healthy social connections. -- By simulating real-world interaction in office spaces, we create a digital “Café” where employees can spontaneously interact with colleagues. This allows for a 10 minute coffee chat with their peers in the "Café" during a morning and lunch break. 3. Set boundaries between work and life, and build healthier working habits. -- Pebble is both a desktop and phone application, and only appears during work time. Throughout the work day, Pebble nudges users towards certain activities that help you avoid sitting for too long.

The iteration of Pebble

To collect user feedback for Pebble we conducted 5 in-depth prototype sessions, using Figma to simulate real interactions. We received feedback from entry-level to management-level employees. Overall, participants liked the sense of connection and bonding Pebble brought into teams. And they wanted to know whether it would even be possible to integrate Pebble into their existing office collaboration tools, such as Microsoft Teams or Slack.With this suggestion in mind, we developed integrations for these tools and designed several enhancements to Pebble’s main functions: 01. Add mini-games for playful elements in the virtual Café function; 02. Display kind words written by colleagues during focus exercises to spread positivity in a team; 03. Aggregate users’ data and send it back to the company’s existing internal wellbeing programs, to support them to identify and resolve wellbeing issues in the company.

The Future of Pebble

We plan to retain our users from two segments: company and employees. We will continue to work with subscribed companies by generating regular employee wellbeing reports and recommendations for their teams and HR departments. Employees also continue to see new benefits, with personalised wellbeing reports, an ability to bring in third-party focus exercises from companies like Headspace and NHS Fitness Studio as well as smart conversational AI capabilities that enable Pebble to help users in new ways.Pebble creates different values for various stakeholders. It enables employees to have focus time to do meaningful work and establish and maintain social connections with their peers. Pebble creates healthier and more productive teams for the company as a whole. Outside the organisations that directly use the service, Pebble will partner with existing office collaboration tools and wellbeing programs to deliver the ultimate wellbeing-focused working environment.

special thanks

A huge thank you from us to all the people who helped us on our project, whose participation made the whole working process really enjoyable. To our project partners, Elin Sjursen and Annie Woodall, for their continued support and kindness. To David Eveleigh-Evans, our personal tutor, for his professional guidance and for encouraging us to try out more possibilities.

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