Poor mental health and well-being can take a heavy toll on both employees and businesses. The World Health Organisation estimates that depression, anxiety disorders, and other conditions experienced in the workplace costs the global economy around $1 trillion per year in lost productivity. According to studies by McKinsey & Company, one in a hundred employees require mental health and wellness support and have more acute needs that may require more intense services and treatments.
With increased focus on employee well-being and a growing awareness of the impact that physical and mental health can have on productivity and job satisfaction, an increasing number of companies are now offering technological tools and resources to support employee wellness. Studies have emerged that digital tools incorporated in wellness programs can play a useful role in addressing mental-health challenges and wellbeing in the workplace. These programs and technologies are aimed at improving mental health, job satisfaction and self-efficacy, and delivering other self-reported health benefits. This all helps to improve employee performance, which of course, leads to better productivity.
Technological support for employee wellness programs isn’t an entirely new approach in the workplace, but it certainly has become more prevalent in recent years. In fact, technological solutions account for the majority of employer-sponsored health and well-being offerings. With the mainstream use of personal digital devices, such as smartphones, fitness trackers and tablets, employer wellness programs have seamlessly shifted to digital or virtual formats.
Technological advances and an ever-growing range of digital solutions being launched have enabled employers to support employee wellness programs on a broader and grander scale. Investing in a range of digital offerings as part of their mental health and wellness support schemes for employees, helps businesses boost well-being and performance while building a healthy and resilient workforce.
Get switched on to better health and wellness
With remote work becoming more prevalent, technology can enable employees to access wellness programs from anywhere at any time, providing help on demand without any of the long waits required for in-person therapy. With stigma still lingering around mental health, digital wellness solutions allow employees to be seek help anonymously and confidentially, in accordance with data-protection regulations. It also allows employees to decide how they engage with a therapeutic approach that best suits their needs.
By leveraging technology, employers can deliver more effective, engaging, and personalised wellness programs for their employees. Employers can also make data-driven decisions about wellness program offerings, adjust goals and incentives, provide personalised recommendations for improvements and monitor the effectiveness of programs over time. Employers may benefit from keeping pace with new solutions as they become available and identifying suitable new technologies and approaches to integrate into their broader workplace support and wellness offering.
Technology can play an important role in supporting employee wellness programs by providing employees with a range of tools and resources to help them improve their physical and mental health, reduce stress, and stay motivated to make positive changes. Doing so can ultimately lead to a more productive and engaged workforce. As technology continues to advance in this field, it’s likely there will be even more innovative solutions emerging to support employee well-being.
Here are some key employee tech-based wellness programs:
Wearable technology and apps
Technology can help employees track their wellness goals using wearable devices and mobile applications, such as fitness tracker apps in smartphones and smartwatches. These are useful tools for employers to promote healthy and active lifestyles among their staff, encouraging positive workplace behaviours, tracking overall health and wellness goals, setting fitness goals and monitoring healthy habits.
Wearables and apps can track physical activity such as walking and running, heart rates and sleep patterns and also help monitor nutrition and other health metrics. Popular fitness tracking apps include Fitbit, incorporating features like step tracking and sleep tracking; MyFitnessPal, for monitoring nutrition and exercise and Strava, a social fitness app designed for runners and cyclists, allowing users to track their runs and rides and join challenges.
There are, of course, many more to choose from, depending on individual goals and preferences. Apps specifically geared to mental health can help employees manage stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues by way of mindfulness exercises, meditation tools, and other helpful resources.
Employee wellness portals are online platforms designed to support employee well-being, health, and productivity. They typically offer a variety of resources and tools that can be accessed 24/7 from anywhere, to help manage physical, mental, and emotional health.
Many employers provide wellness portals that offer a variety of health resources such as videos, in-depth articles and interactive tools. Mental health support may also include access to virtual counselling, meditation and mindfulness exercises. Portals may even facilitate self-help and social connections, offering opportunities for employees to connect with one another and build a sense of community around wellness.
Providing an alternative approach to engagement, gamification refers to the use of game design elements and mechanics in non-game contexts Gamification can be used to encourage and motivate employee participation in health and wellness programs. In gamified wellness programs, employees are presented with challenges, rewards and feedback loops that mimic the experience of playing a game. This is an effective way to engage employees and make the process of maintaining good health and wellness a more fun and enjoyable experience, as well as initiating social interaction and friendly competition among work colleagues and departments.
As an example, employees can earn points or badges for achieving specific health goals or completing certain activities, such as taking a daily walk or attending a fitness class, all monitored using an app or fitness tracker. Points can then be redeemed for rewards like discounts on gym memberships, or healthy food options.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s)
Typically offered as part of an employer’s benefits package, EAPs provide confidential counselling and support services to employees, helping them address personal or work-related problems. EAPs are designed to improve the mental and emotional well-being of employees, which in turn can lead to better job performance, satisfaction and increased productivity.
Services that an EAP can provide include counselling and referral services for issues such as stress, anxiety, depression and addiction. They can also provide legal and financial advice, as well as support for employees who are dealing with family issues, such as childcare. EAPs are typically free for employees to use – sometimes extending to family members – and use is strictly confidential, so employees can seek help without fear of reprisal or stigma.