Source: Chiradeep BasuMallick

Did you know that American businesses face $300 billion in losses every year simply due to stress-induced healthcare costs and low attendance? We explore how the mental health issue has evolved in the digital era and share four ideas to use technology to lower stress levels in the workforce.

Workplace stress is a major concern across companies, regardless of sector or scale. Nearly half of American employees report experiencing high levels of stress at work, and US businesses lose a staggering $300 billion every year due to healthcare costs and low attendance arising from stress.

“Mental health in the workplace is often a sensitive subject, as employees do not want their personal lives to impact their professional lives,” says Dr. Patrick K. Porter, Ph.D., creator of BrainTap Technology™, a company that produces digital tools for health and wellness.

That is why in April every year, companies around the world turn the spotlight on stress awareness and its impact on mental health. For Stress Awareness Month in 2019, we discuss how modern workplaces are battling new forms of stress and how technology can help improve employees’ mental health.

Isn’t Technology Known to Increase Stress Levels?

While technology is a powerful tool that makes us productive and efficient, it also has a downside that needs to be addressed. Consumer technology providers such as Apple, Facebook, and Snapchat have recently faced public backlash for their propensity to “hijack attention” and cause increasingly high screen time.

In the professional sphere, however, conversations around technology and mental health are still rare. According to a survey, knowledge workers are facing information and app overload at work, having to use an average of 9.39 apps to complete basic tasks. Such over-reliance on technology can negatively impact mental health and cause undue stress among the workforce.

But does this mean any implementation of technology should be opposed, and organizations should return to manual approaches? The answer is a resounding “no.” What there is, is a need to form awareness groups like the Humanizing the Digital Workforce Consortium that take multidisciplinary approaches to battle technology-related stress. In the digital era, mental health will take on a different dimension, requiring innovative measures – and, of course, heightened awareness.

Technology Be the Answer to the Mental Health Question?

Interestingly, companies are turning to technology solutions in this climate of rising stress and mental health complexities. For Stress Awareness Month, here are four ideas you can implement in your workplace using technology for positive outcomes.

  1. Build a culture centered on employee well-being

Culture-building is a part of most employer branding strategies, critical to giving your company a distinct identity in the job market and helping attract top talent. An element that’s often left out, however, is the criticality of mental health and explicit benefits targeting it. Company culture tools such as employee feedback, surveys, engagement drivers, and benefits administration platforms can all be aligned to mental health parameters. For instance, Workday sends a two-question survey to its employees every week, often asking questions about their mental health and wellness. By gathering such data, companies can implement initiatives that will help employees manage their stress in the workplace.

  1. Create digital channels where employees can share their “stress stories”

All work environments rely on a plethora of professional communication tools to connect (with) their employees. These channels can be used to offer an outlet for employees looking to share their “stress stories.” On Slack, for example, you could have a dedicated thread for employees to discuss stressful situations. Employees can even share their preferred approaches to tackling workplace stress via blogs on the company intranet. In fact, there are also bots in the Slack marketplace meant for stress alleviation. These small steps can go a long way in ensuring overall mental health.

Such open discussions, however, demand a very open work culture where employees are comfortable sharing their workplace stress issues. Once such a culture has been established, tools like Slack can give employees an outlet for their stress.

  1. Explore the HR technology marketplace for specialized mental health software

Given the prevalence of workplace stress, modern technology innovators are looking to bridge this gap and offer software solutions designed specifically for mental health issues. For instance, Zenefits partnered with Thrive to offer well-being resources to employees of small and mid-sized companies. Happify Health is a standalone tool that encourages meditation and mindfulness at work, available in seven major languages. Organizations would benefit from encouraging employees to use such apps to maintain their calm in a high-stress environment.

As an example of how mobile apps help stress management in the workplace, Dr. Porter tells us how the BrainTap app works: “The algorithms used [in the BrainTap app] provide unique rhythmic patterns that the brainwaves naturally follow. This technology, along with guided visualization, is proven to reduce stress and increase concentration within the brain, and with consistent use, these algorithms will teach your brain how to reach these relaxed mental states by itself. This results in extraordinary levels of individual mental performance, as the brain is finally able to operate at its peak potential.”

  1. Capitalize on the power of technology integration

The best way to address app overload (and the stress caused by managing so many workflows) is to have integrated applications that holistically meet multiple needs. Business solution suites that bundle common tasks allow employees to complete work in a single place, without switching between multiple apps designated for different tasks such as project tracking and collaboration. A simple example is the use of G-Suite for pan-organization document management, instead of documents being fragmented across the cloud and on-premise.

Conclusion

Digital transformation is inevitable. It is the way forward to succeed in a competitive economy driven almost entirely by technology. However, stress arising due to technology use and other factors at work shouldn’t be ignored. As Dr. Porter says, “Luckily, in today’s world, virtually everyone has a smartphone or some other form of technology that allows for mobile app usage, making it an easy task to spread the word of mental health apps.”

Stress awareness month is a great time to introduce (ironically) such tech-based stress management tools (or reinvent old ones) with a focus on the best possible mental health conditions for every job to help keep stress at a minimum in the workplace.

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