When it comes to the workplace, many UK employers seem dubious about the supposed benefits of wellbeing technology.
The CIPD recently published the results of their latest Health and Wellbeing at Work Survey. 87% of those surveyed claimed that technology is having a negative impact on employee wellbeing. This is mainly because things like smartphones, powerful laptops, Wi-Fi and sophisticated intranet systems make it hard for some employees to switch off out of work hours. Because they can work from anywhere at any time, they do. This can lead to stress, exhaustion and burnout.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Technology can have a positive impact on employee wellbeing.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways that technology can help to make your employees healthier, happier, and more productive.
An Introduction to Wellbeing Technology
What do we talk about when we talk about employee wellbeing?
As we’ve previously explained, we see employee wellbeing as a combination of good physical health and good mental health. It’s influenced by a number of factors – some physical, some social, some psychological, and some environmental. Office design specialists Morgan Lovell have a great infographic that effectively sums up what employee wellbeing is, and the sort of things that can influence it.
If you make employee wellbeing a priority for your business, you can look forward to fewer unplanned absences, better staff retention, increased job satisfaction and an overall boost to productivity.
At the heart of every successful employee wellbeing program is a workplace culture that champions healthy eating and exercise. And it’s here that technology can make a huge difference.
Wellbeing technology lets you stay on top of your health. It can encourage you to exercise and help you to keep up to date with your progress. You can also use it to log your diet so that you’re less likely to slip into unhealthy habits. Wellbeing technology can even be used to monitor your vital signs, automatically alerting a doctor should it recognise that anything’s amiss.
It’s easy to see how incorporating wellbeing technology into the workplace could serve to reduce sickness leave while boosting job satisfaction and performance. So let’s explore some of the options available.
Stay Active with Wearable Tech
Wearables make it easy to take the sort of small steps that, over time, can have a huge impact.
For example, the Apple Watch is one of the most popular wearables on the market. A key app displays three rings – one for movement, one for exercise, and one for standing. You can set your own goals for each, and the Watch will offer gentle encouragement, in the form of haptic feedback and display prompts, to act to fill these rings.
You may have read that sitting is the new smoking. Sitting for too long can increase your chances of developing chronic health problems like heart disease and diabetes. In certain workplaces, such as offices, employees can get so engrossed in their work that they think nothing of sitting for hours at a time.
Here’s where wearables can help. Employees with sedentary roles can get gentle prompts, once an hour, to stand up and move. They don’t have to stand for long, and they don’t have to move very much. But over time, these small efforts will make a huge difference to their overall health and wellbeing.
The exercise prompts aren’t too demanding, either. If an employee’s wearable suggests that they take some exercise in the middle of the working day, they won’t necessarily have to go for a time-consuming run to work towards their goal. They could take a few flights of steps, walk around the building a few times, or simply walk to the photocopier and back.
A smartwatch for every employee! The upfront expense might make your eyes water. But think of what you could save in terms of the reduced absences and increased productivity.
Get an Overview of Your Employees’ Health with Wellbeing Platforms
Wearable tech alone can contribute to your workplace wellbeing. But combine wearables with a wellbeing platform and you might expect an even greater impact.
There are many wellbeing platforms available. Some of them rely on employees to enter their own data, but the more powerful platforms can capture information directly from wearables. In this way they can paint a vivid picture of the overall health of your workforce.
Wellbeing platforms offer a number of benefits. The most obvious is that they can be used to track the success of your wellbeing program, while offering some key insights into areas that need improvement. But beyond this, wellbeing platforms make it easy to offer incentives and rewards to your most engaged employees, while offering all employees a comprehensive library of educational materials, from short videos to comprehensive webinars.
As we said above, the most successful employee wellbeing programs are those that prioritise exercise and healthy eating. A wellbeing platform, combined with powerful yet unobtrusive wearables, will help you to create a workplace culture that actively promotes a healthy lifestyle.
Create a Healthy Working Culture with Smartphone Apps
Every sector has tight deadlines, demanding customers and hefty workloads. It’s no wonder that so many employees feel overwhelmed.
We recently looked at some simple ways you can manage stress in the workplace. We looked at ways you can better understand the underlying causes of stress, and offered some simple solutions to help your employees stay calm and in control.
But one thing we neglected to mention was the role wellbeing technology can play in helping your employees to manage stress.
mHealth is a catch-all term for the role that smartphones and other wireless devices can play in supporting healthcare. According to a recent study by Research2Guidance, there are more than 250,000 mHealth smartphone apps currently on the market. Many of these are designed to help people manage chronic conditions like heart disease, asthma and diabetes. Many more are designed to help you track exercise goals and stick to healthy well-rounded diets. But some mHealth apps are specifically designed to help you manage stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental ill health issues.
Here’s a few that wellbeing apps you can introduce to the workplace:
- Headspace – The “guided meditation and mindfulness app” that features some easy-to-follow exercises designed to help you stress less, focus more, and even sleep better.
- Focus Booster – This one’s based on the pomodoro technique, which is basically the idea that people work best in short bursts. It allows you to easily break your work into intensive intervals separated by numerous short breaks. Used correctly, this can mean that you can get more work done in less time, with fewer distractions and less stress overall
- Worry Watch – The “stress and anxiety journal”. It lets you write down whatever’s worrying you and track whether the outcome was as bad as you were expecting. Over time, you may spot a pattern – that you worry too much about things that are never as bad as they seem.
- Breathe2Relax – This one’s designed to help you master a powerful stress-management skill called diaphragmatic breathing. Master this skill and you can override your body’s natural “fight-or-flight” response to stressful situations.
Track Your Absence Trends to Spot Patterns
One of the major benefits of an employee wellbeing program is that it can lead to fewer business days lost to unplanned absences. The idea is that if your employees are healthy and happy, they’ll be less likely to call in sick.
But there are other steps you can take to reduce the amount of sick days your employees take. You need to learn to understand your employees, and the sort of things that might encourage them to throw in the towel. After all, the more you know about the reasons behind unplanned absences in your workplace, the more you can do to reduce the likelihood of them happening in the future.
And again, this is an area where wellbeing technology can make a difference. Absence management software can give you a clear overview of your business’s absence data. This can help you to spot patterns, and to identify strategies for making unplanned absences less likely.
For example, we recently looked at the 2018 absence data for 500 UK organisations who use our absence management software. We found that the worst day for unplanned absences in the UK in 2018 was the last Monday of November.
Why is this? Think of all the external influences that might make people feel unable to work in late November – falling temperatures, an increase in cases of cold and flu, and the looming demands of Christmas.
With all this in mind, is there anything you could do to address the situation? A flexible working culture could better equip people to deal with the multiple pressures demanding their time, while plenty of plants and natural light in the office could help combat the seasonal gloom.
In any case, if you know when people are most likely to take unplanned absences in your organisation, you’ll be able to devise a strategy for helping address the issue.
Plan For 2019 – Use Technology to Promote Employee Wellbeing
It seems inevitable that technology will play a central role in the future of employee wellbeing.
When looking to the future of wellbeing technology in the workplace, people talk about advanced systems like subdermal implants that monitor employees’ vital signs in real-time.
The potential benefits of these sort of measures, as well as the ethical implications, are a discussion for another day. In this post, we aimed to highlight the sort of technology you could introduce to your company today.
So whether you choose to get a smartwatch for every member of staff, or to invest in some powerful absence management software, make 2019 the year you use technology to champion employee wellbeing.