How does Digital Tech Support Employee's Mental Health?

Updated: Aug 29, 2021

Mental health is vital in each person's life, if you have weak mental health, it damages not only your physical health but also your life and work. So new digital solutions are created to help employers provide personalized support and make well-being a strategic focus for their organization.

More than half of the population in middle and high-income countries may have at least one mental illness in their lifetime. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 42% of employees worldwide have reported a deterioration in their mental health. According to media reports, burnout symptoms for employees and leaders are increasing.

The good news is that addressing mental health and wellness in the workplace will make a difference. For example, research has found that health plans can improve employee performance, mental health, and self-efficacy, and provide other self-reported health benefits. In recent years, the ubiquitous personal digital devices, smartphones, fitness trackers, tablet computers, etc. have caused many programs to shift to digital or virtual formats, which now account for the majority of healthcare sponsored products.

As more digital solutions begin, and employee demand increases, more organizations are investing in the construction of a healthy and resistant workforce. We interviewed some experts in this area recently for their ideas to better deepen the understanding of the role of digital technology by helping the mental health and recovery of employees.

The digital solution can provide a therapeutic approach or withstand a large-scale aggressive behavior. They can not access any time or anywhere from anywhere. They are convenient and easy to use, and anonymous.

The role of digital tools.

Through dialogue with McKinsey HealthTech Network (a global community of more than 850 digital health companies) and other company members active in the field of mental health and wellness, we identified six main types of digital products that can help the company to implement an employee wellness strategy. These offerings fall into three groups:

1. Wearables and digital biomarker applications can be used to collect physiological data through a number of different methods. For example, employees can use their smartphones to self-report their emotions or record their voices as a measure of their emotional state, or use their smartwatches to track their heart rate, skin temperature, and skin electrical activity to assess their health condition. Innovative forms of data collection like this can be integrated into a wider range of products. For example, if employees report persistent depression, the digital solution might recommend that they take a few days off or direct them to personalized counseling or treatment. These interventions can be carried out without revealing personal data; employers can only view aggregated anonymous data. Because these data are more accurate than those collected by traditional surveys, employers can use it to identify and solve pain points in the workplace and provide employees with objective individual, team, or whole-level welfare measurement standards. George Eleftheriou, CEO of Sentio Solutions, uses data from wearables and mobile devices to develop biomarkers and digital therapies for mental health. He pointed out: “We expect that by 2025, measures of mental health can be taken as easily as glucose levels today. Physiological data from wearables, as well as speech, text, and interactions with one’s smartphone, will pave the way."

2. Prevention and treatment solutions are likely to form the core of employee mental health and resilience programs. They provide different levels of human contact, from preventive chatbots to face-to-face psychotherapy, and use various techniques from meditation and hypnosis to cognitive behavioral therapy. Some focus only on mental health; others also include sleep, nutrition, and other aspects of physical health to gain a more comprehensive understanding of employee well-being. Employers can use them to provide employees with a variety of personalized services, from flexible training to clinical assistance, and the support of appropriate external professionals or trained employees. Large employers can work with solution providers to customize content according to their needs; smaller employers can allocate individual health budgets to employees for their preferred form of support. Employers can also use third-party solution providers to help them train employees as first responders, conduct employee wellness surveys, and aggregate data on the effectiveness of support services. As Patrick Burke, head of healthcare at Happify Health emphasized “Life is episodically challenging. Instead of putting people in silos, solutions need to offer variable support tailored to the person’s current psychological situation.”

3. Analysis tools are generally implemented in conjunction with remote data collection using the output of wearable devices and digital biomarkers. For example, they can remind individual employees when they should consider taking time to recharge, or notify the leader when the team seems to be under a lot of pressure. On a broader scale, employers can work with solution providers to measure employee happiness and use sophisticated predictive algorithms to link these findings to productivity. At the individual level, employers can use analytical solutions to help identify employees at risk and, after obtaining their consent, refer them to internal or external support services.

Employers should consider whether the healthcare technology company they plan to work with can customize its products to fit the background and culture of their organization. They should also consider incorporating best practices, such as making the deployment completely digital and anonymous, and strengthening it through events and personalized support. To be effective, digital solutions can play an important role in changing the overall organization towards employee well-being; As one executive commented, "Mindfulness won’t help if the motivation system is broken”.

Reference: McKinsey & Company - Using digital tech to support employees’ mental health and resilience.


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