Professors at the University of Minnesota are partnering with researchers from five other universities across the country for a $13.8M project to build and develop mPerf, a mobile device that monitors work performance and stress levels.

When it’s completed, mPerf will be a wearable system of mobile sensors and software that can be used to assess everyday job performance. According to the project’s lead researchers, one of the main problems with traditional job assessments is that they don’t always monitor actual day-to-day work performance.

By creating a device like a wrist watch or chest band to monitor employee characteristics and work performance, researchers hope to build a system that more accurately and objectively judges how employees handles things like everyday stress.

The Minnesota team is lead by Deniz Ones, a psychology professor, and Dr. Mustafa al’Absi, a professor of behavioral medicine at the university’s medical school. al’Absi will lead the group studying stress assessment.

“Any time a person experiences stress it takes away from their cognitive capacity,” al’Absi said. “If you’re stressed you wouldn’t want to engage in tasks that require a lot of attention or alertness. It’s difficult to think of other behaviors, and that affects how you perform.”

He added that stress isn’t always bad. In certain situations, being stressed creates a sense of motivation and interest that leads to increased alertness and activity. Another thing al’Absi’s team will work on is measuring stress factors to define how they relate to performance, and at what point stress becomes detrimental.

The mPerf team will collect data from hundreds of employees working in companies in the U.S. and abroad. al-Absi said that by measuring how these people react in day-to-day stressful situations, the researching team hopes to develop a way to understand the relationship between stress and performance.

The project is still in its early phases. The University announced the collaboration last week, and al’Absi said that it’s something the team will likely continue to work on in various phases for anywhere from one to four years.

“We’re certainly excited about the possibility to bring this to the public domain,” he said. “We always do our research in a medical context with the hope that it impact in a broader context.”