Performing at your best when it really matters is critical to success in any walk of life, be it behind the wheel of a McLaren Formula 1 car, in the office or even at home. But, when the demands and pressures of daily life get in the way, making the lifestyle decisions that enable us to operate at our optimum is often far easier said than done. Since 2015, health and well-being has been identified as critical to performance at McLaren, but just how do you deliver a health and well-being programme to a highly mobilised workforce (something all organisations are having to contend with in the wake of covid-19)? By working closely with our strategic partner Salus Optima, we’ve developed a digital solution designed to do just that.
Rising to the challenge
“Health and well-being is a key part of our strategy to build a sustainable team,” says McLaren F1 race engineer and Head of Health, Performance and Sustainability Tom Stallard. “In motorsport, employee retention is a performance differentiator. The last thing you want is to lose talented people because they can’t continue to do their job due to the toll it’s taking on their physical and mental well-being.”
“There’s a direct correlation between a healthy, happy workforce and increased productivity and decreased absenteeism,” says Salus Optima Health and Human Performance Director Kris Shuttleworth. “The impact of covid-19 on our working lives has only accentuated this. As locations, hours and demands have changed, many people have experienced new challenges around balancing work and family life, as well as isolation and burnout.” McLaren is no exception.
“The challenges of covid-19 extend well beyond working hours,” adds Kris. “It’s impacted what we do across all aspects of our day and that’s reflected in the growth in consumer demand for health and wellness products as people look to explore lifestyle choices that can improve their physical and mental health. This is where Salus Optima, a technology company operating at the intersection between health and well-being, comes in.”
A bespoke, data-driven approach suited to any industry
Where many commercially available wearables and apps offer a one-size-fits-all solution, Salus Optima delivers digital solutions that provide targeted support and advice based on the unique requirements of each partner and their customers – something which is best described by Tom: “What set Salus Optima apart for McLaren was its ability to deliver a product that was bespoke to our needs and the challenges our people face. Together, we’ve developed a digital solution that provides real-time personalised health and wellness guidance to each member of the travelling race team, taking into account a whole range of factors including their schedule, on-track demands, location and travel, alongside their own personal goals and challenges. We couldn’t find this capability anywhere else.”
“Our data-driven, software-focused approach enables us to rapidly develop products that are tailored to the needs of our partners, their employees and customers,” adds Kris. What’s more, the inherent flexibility of Salus Optima’s technology platform means that its bespoke digital health and wellness experiences are not just the reserve of an elite sports team like McLaren, they can just as easily be deployed in any other market or industry.
At the heart of the platform reside five core elements – a recommendation engine, human performance methodology, behaviour change, coaching, and the ability to integrate data with context – and with it the capability to act quickly in any given market and perform the necessary design research to arrive at a bespoke minimal viable product in a very short space of time. “This is something we’ve been doing across women’s health, workplace wellness, insurance, nutrition, and consumer health, as well as providing lifestyle interventions within the clinical setting,” reveals Kris.
Real time and always relevant
For McLaren, the digital solution – a mobile app – developed in collaboration with Salus Optima will enhance the performance of the race team by providing personalised, dynamic and actionable recommendations across the following key areas: fatigue, nutrition, and physical and mental training.
“The first phase of the project will come online in May 2021 and we’ve chosen to focus on fatigue, which includes jet lag and sleep quality, because it affects everybody in the team,” says Tom. “It’s an area where we can make an immediate impact.” Until now, the support provided in this area to team members has consisted of virtual coaching sessions and webinars, but this technology gives the ability to go a lot further by providing team members with a readily accessible way to get the information they need to combat the effects of fatigue.
“Passive and active data collection informs the recommendations that team members will receive,” adds Tom. “In the case of fatigue, the recommendations are based on the work of leading sleep and travel fatigue expert Dr Ian Dunican who previously worked with our driver Daniel Ricciardo. We’ve essentially digitised his advice, so it can be deployed on the app in real time.
“But the beauty of the technology is that the recommendations constantly evolve based on the specific requirements of each member of the team,” says Tom. “So if you were due to fly out to Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix, the app would advise you several days beforehand to go to bed earlier in the evening to help shift your body clock forward. However, if for some reason you were unable to adjust your sleeping pattern until the day before departure, the advice would change because, by this point, it would actually be better to shift your body clock backwards by going to bed later. Even if you can’t follow the ideal approach, the technology is intelligent enough to provide you with the ‘next-best’ approach based on your circumstances.”
The development of this digital solution shares many similarities with the R&D cycle of an F1 car, constantly evolving based on data and feedback to optimise its performance. And, just like a new F1 car, the technology won’t be pushed to its absolute limit straight out of the box, reveals Tom: “The functionality of the app is all in place, but we’ve hidden a lot of it for the time being. By simplifying its introduction, we can check it’s performing as expected and ensure a positive user experience. This is likely to improve engagement when we introduce the subsequent phases centred around nutrition and physical and mental training.”
It’s a sentiment that’s echoed by McLaren Racing Director of Human Performance Mike Collier: “One of the biggest challenges faced by any app is the incredibly high churn rate: within six weeks, for example, at least 75% of apps that have been downloaded get deleted. The phased approach we’re taking is crucial to the long-term success of the product. Early feedback will help us to understand and resolve any initial problems we encounter and ensure the digital solution can reliably deliver personalised recommendations in real time that will improve the performance of our people.”
“As we learn more about the race team and each member of it, we’ll be able to add greater levels of personalisation – giving them the ability to customise their experience even further to create a product that’s perfectly suited to them,” adds Kris. “Sleep, movement, nutrition, struggles with jet lag, acute injuries, mental wellness, they’re are all things which affect the general population around the world – so there’s an opportunity to translate what we’re learning from our work with McLaren to other markets. We’re excited to take the tools we’ve developed and scale them to support the employees and consumers of other organisations with digital health and wellness solutions that are perfectly suited to any walk of life.”
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