Can tech help us switch off from our ‘always on’ mentality?
The influx of new digital technologies is exposing us to an unprecedented flood of information that we feel compelled to read and respond to at all hours. Subsequently, work related stress has become of major concern to organisations with a recent survey from the European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER) revealing that within the EU, these pressures have an impact in nearly 80% of establishments. This has a damaging effect on productivity and has a substantial economic impact on organisations, highlighted by a European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EASHW) study, which showed that the total cost of mental health disorders in Europe is €240 billion/per year of which €136 billion/per year is the cost of reduced productivity and €104 billion/per year is the cost of direct costs such as medical treatment.
As the technological revolution shows no sign of slowing, businesses are rushing to harness this wealth of data to improve employee health and happiness and therefore productivity. This presents a challenge for business leaders who must ensure the safety and security of employee data. So how do you balance innovative wellbeing programmes with privacy concerns, and boost your employees’ wellbeing at the same time?
With such a high percentage of employees struggling to cope with the ‘always on’ working culture and considering that 12.5 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17, employers are rolling out wellbeing strategies for their workplaces at a rate never seen before.
The quantifiable self
Of course, it has traditionally been harder for medical professionals to quantify mental wellbeing illness. But the Internet of Things (IoT) gives rise to the ‘quantifiable self’ where our exercise, sleep, movements, diet, and heart rate can be measured in real-time. The global market for IoT healthcare is forecasted to be $117 billion by 2020 and will only increase as innovators figure out better ways to make healthcare the best it can be.
Avoiding invasion of employee privacy
Inevitably, with IoT’s role in healthcare growing tremendously, the challenges associated with it will grow as well. Mobile, bring your own devices (BYOD), and IoT healthcare can lead to serious security breaches of highly sensitive and valuable personal information. Concerns over the loss of this data could counteract the initial reasoning behind its use, so you must strike a balance and ensure that your employees are happy from a privacy perspective. For example, who would want their boss knowing how many hours sleep they got last night?! Aside from ensuring that your staff’s data is secure, you can put employees’ minds at rest by gaining their consent first. You should ensure staff are always part of the discussion when it comes to new and innovative technologies being implemented that could impact them in the workplace.
Aside from IoT, wellbeing at work is being gamified through Fitbits and other wearables, where employees are rewarded with points, vouchers and discount offers for following healthy living. Gartner forecasts that by 2018, two million people will be required by their employer to wear fitness trackers and according to a recent study, employees with wearable tech are 8.5 per cent more productive and 3.5 percent more satisfied in the workplace. Similarly, increased adoption of ‘Thync tech’, another form of wearable technology, which detects mood and provides direct stimulation or relaxation, shows that this isn’t a fad and investment in wellbeing technology is forming an integral part of employer strategies.
A coherent approach is vital, as the number of health and wellbeing data sources available to business leaders has increased dramatically. This has been driven by advances in technology such as mobile devices, personal gadgets and IoT sensors that can more accurately track an individual’s activities. Recording the data however, isn’t enough. As capabilities increase, and data volumes grow, it is vital that you are better able to harness this data to boost productivity and wellbeing.