Technology to Support Workplace Wellbeing and Mental Health
Mental health and wellbeing constitute a major challenge for organisations across the globe. According to the World Health Organisation, depression and anxiety cost the worldwide economy US$ 1 trillion per year due to lost productivity.
In recent years, technology–enabled mental health solutions have been on the rise in society more widely, and research suggests that this trend has reached the workplace. According to an Accenture study, 83% of employees want their organisation to provide mental health supporting technology.
Organisations have a responsibility towards their workers to support and protect their mental health. Some of the ways they can do so include fostering a supportive mental health culture, encouraging good mental health practices, and reducing workplace health risks as far as possible. But could technology assist companies to further the mental health agenda?
First, technology may support wellbeing by providing information to people in need of support. For example, web portals can provide useful information and chart pathways to helpful resources. Additionally, teletherapy can facilitate and expand access to mental health therapy services. People seeking talking therapies through conventional channels can often face long waiting times, whereas these platforms can enable employees to get treatment from a counsellor or psychiatrist more quickly.
Advances in Artificial Intelligence have also presented options for digital mental health support at any hour of the day, delivered through chatbots. These can be useful in many ways, for instance, they can help consolidate therapy work by guiding people through strategies learned in therapy sessions, like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
Wellness apps can also be helpful by encouraging people to take care of their mental health and building a culture which promotes the importance of employee wellbeing. Such apps can also support a pre-emptive approach, in which wellbeing and healthy mental health practices are considered as a matter of routine and priority all of the time, rather than to be addressed after an issue has developed.
Looking towards the future, one potential high-tech mental health solution is Virtual Reality (VR) therapy. Researchers have identified VR as a possible treatment for various mental health disorders, including Anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One literature review notes that currently secondary effects like motion sickness are holding it back from wider use, but that “in the future, VR systems may become an innovative clinical tool for patients with specific psychiatric symptoms.”