Technology & Mental Health In The Workplace

Posted by Shahlla Karmali on Jul 23, 2019 9:14:34 AM

Our parent company, Presagia, is once again contributing a column to each 2019 issue of @Work Magazine, a publication by the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC). If you haven't had a chance to check out this excellent group, we highly recommend that you do! DMEC provides best practices for our complex industry and @Work is one of many excellent resources that we always stay on top of! 

This year's column, Technology and Absence Management, focuses on the technology that can help support a strong leave and accommodation management strategy. In celebration, we've created a blog series that will showcase each of the columns!

Here is the May column, which is all about how technology can help support mental health in the workplace! 

An employee struggling with mental illness looks to technology provided by his employer for help

With 44.7 million U.S. adults living with a mental illness, it’s an issue that employers can’t afford to ignore, and it contributes significantly to absenteeism and decreased productivity. But when there’s an issue of any kind in today’s world, there’s usually a team of developers at work on a technological solution. Here are some of the key technology solutions available in the workplace mental health arena, ranging from smartphone apps to virtual reality (VR).

One prominent category, mindfulness apps, help employees regulate their emotions by focusing on the present. These apps have been shown to reduce psychological symptoms of depression. Techniques shared through mindfulness apps include deep breathing with an awareness of your breath and body scans focusing on each body part, starting from one end of the body and moving toward the other.

Other app categories include apps that teach social skills and improved communication with colleagues; goal setting apps that help individuals set short- and long-term goals; and interactive mood diaries or questionnaire apps. The latter assess employees’ current mental health status and provide personalized suggestions to improve mood and mental well-being. In some cases, this information can even be shared anonymously with employers.

Another prevalent technology-based solution is telehealth, which connects employees with a healthcare provider (e.g., a psychologist) via telephone or video. Telehealth has been shown to be convenient and less expensive than in-person visits.

Wearable sensor trackers and similar devices are becoming more popular to track real-time health data such as activity levels and sleep. Some businesses in Europe have even started to utilize VR to help employees with guided meditation to aid with anxiety disorders and phobias.

Employee assistance programs are continuously building out their technology to deliver mental health services via online resources, workshops, chats, videos, and apps. These services include counseling for financial problems, substance abuse, and relationship issues, as well as behavioral health and wellness resources.

While a wide range of technology is available to help manage employee mental health concerns, knowing when employers should apply it can seem like a guessing game. Absence data presents a wealth of information that is still underutilized by organizations to identify issues at the individual and population levels. Trend indicators can include a change in attendance patterns, such as tardiness, working overtime, not taking annual leave, or taking leave on short notice. Absence rates per employee, business unit, job, and time of year can also indicate deteriorating health related to stress, burnout, and more.

While mental health is a hugely complex issue, taking the first step to understand the available solutions is crucial. Combined with data analytics, such as absence trends, you can provide a powerful combination to help employees take control of workplace mental health.

Read The Other Blog Posts In This Series: 

A Robust Absence Management System

Using Technology to Strengthen Consistency in Absence Management

Topics: Leave Management, Absence Management, HR Tips

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