How can technology help us nurture employee wellbeing?

Many employees are more likely to engage with technology on wellbeing issues

Even before the pandemic, many employers recognised the role they had to play in supporting employee wellbeing, yet the issue has rocketed even further up the HR agenda in the last 18 months, and forward-thinking HR leaders are now turning to technology to help them nurture wellbeing and provide personalised support.

According to a 2020 McKinsey report, 62% of employees globally said mental health was the most challenging issue for them during the Covid pandemic; and despite the fact that 96% of organisations worldwide responded by providing additional mental health resources, just one in six employees felt supported by their employer in this area.

When implemented and delivered in the right way, HR technology plays a critical role in addressing mental health challenges and embedding wellbeing into the organisation. Research in 2020 by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence found that 83% of employees worldwide would like their organisation to provide technology to support their mental health.

So how can HR use technology to support wellbeing and ensure their wellbeing efforts are targeting the right areas? Here are four key points to consider:

Leverage technology alongside the human angle

Combined with human input, HR technology can help employers reach every employee in the organisation so that everyone can access wellbeing support. This is especially true for employees who don’t feel comfortable talking about their mental health directly with their line manager.

“Technology often highlights issues we are not obviously aware of,” comments Lisa Seagroatt, founder and managing director of HR Fit for Purpose. “Employees are not always willing to discuss the issue of wellbeing and are sometimes more likely to engage with supportive technology where they may record their mood, thoughts or mental health rather than discuss them with their manager.”

Using wellbeing technology also enables employees to access support on any device at any time, adds Dr Heather Bolton, head of psychology at Unmind. “This is especially important for companies adopting a hybrid working model, or those that have both office-based and location-based staff.”

Use your existing HR data

Analysing the people data that already exists in the organisation is central to addressing the wellbeing challenge and delivering personalised support.

“Data can enable leaders to gain insight into the challenges faced, and the impact of those on the mental health of their workforce,” remarks Dr Heather Bolton. “Once they have identified any potential risks, they will be able to adapt their approach to provide the right support. This might include initiatives like flexible working policies or the introduction of digital mental health platforms, to help employees proactively monitor and nurture their mental health.”

Windy Tshepiso Maledu, senior behavioural scientist at CoachHub, adds that data analysis enables HR teams to understand the story of the organisation, what's happening and what trends are being predicted based on historical data. “They can then make strategic decisions on how to create interventions that will address employee wellbeing.”

To ensure you target the right areas, it’s essential you not only use HR data, but also ask employees what kind of wellbeing support they want or need.

“Analysing data and engaging with the workforce will help HR to look at personalising services, as well as identify which type of technology might be suitable for workplace wellbeing support,” advises Lisa Seagroatt.

Look at the bigger picture

HR data tells one part of the story, and is a great starting point, but it’s essential to look at the bigger picture too; and ensure HR leaders work with business leaders to create a holistic, wellbeing strategy that is supported by technology.

We have to consider other measurements too, says Sara Maude, managing director of The Mind Solution.

“HR leaders need to look at what their data is telling them, but they must also read between the lines because there may be issues in the organisation that aren’t always reflected in the data. For example, if employees are suffering from burnout and fatigue because of presenteeism, that is not going to be reflected in absence data, but it could be reflected in other key metrics within the organisation.

“HR leaders therefore need to work with business leaders to dig deeper, look at things on a much more holistic level, and examine what the data is potentially telling us about the health of our workforce.”

For more on how to incorporate different data sources, see, Kickstart your analytics

Follow the trailblazers in the field

There are a few well-known brands that are leading the way in using technology to proactively nurture the wellbeing of their staff.

For example, Marriott Hotels Ltd runs a global wellbeing programme called TakeCare, designed to support employee wellbeing and happiness. Included in the programme is a wellness app called TakeCare Level30, which offers users wellbeing challenges and activities.

“TakeCare Level30 is an engaging experience designed with a partner in mind to complete a variety of wellbeing activities and earn points together,” says Leah Evert, global director of associate wellbeing at Marriott International. “The activities within the app are tied to personal wellbeing, connecting with others, and caring for the environment.”

Another leader in this area is John Lewis. The high street brand has rolled out Unmind’s workplace mental health platform to its employees, which enables them to deliver proactive and preventative mental health support to the entire workforce, as well as measurably improve the mental wellbeing of their staff.

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