Employee mental health is a hot topic, and rightly so, given that over half of all work absences are mental health related and mental health costs UK employers an estimated £45 billion per year. The pandemic has also taken its toll – employees report that they are working longer hours from home and struggling to switch off, feeling socially isolated, experiencing ‘Zoom fatigue’. Many also report stress from financial insecurity, which has been caused by the pandemic, and anxiety provoked by the prospect of society re-opening.
Even as lockdown eases, for many companies, remote working looks set to continue. This poses a significant challenge for employers seeking to support and promote mental health across the workforce. It is inevitably harder to assess how someone is doing at a distance, so how can you meet your legal duties?
Wearable tech can help answer this question. A simple option is the Moodbeam, a wristband with two buttons. Employees periodically press the yellow button to tell their manager they are happy, and the blue button to tell their managers they are sad. Early reviews are generally positive, with managers able to identify struggling employees who would never have approached them directly. However, this binary distinction may be too simplistic. Smartwatches lie at the other end of the spectrum, giving enormous insights into employee mental health, using sleep, heart rate and movement data. The newest releases from Fitbit and Apple Watch can even track ‘electro-dermal activity’, which can be used to measure stress responses.
The potential benefits of this technology are obvious. If successful, wearable tech will give employers comprehensive data about the mental health of their workforce, and enable them to provide targeted support. However, there are some key issues to consider before signing up.