Mental Health Awareness: How technology can help HR drive employee wellbeing

By Emma Morris

This is Part One of Two of an article by Emma Morris, SAP SuccessFactors Manager at Delaware. In recognition of the end of Mental Health Awareness Month, the folks here at Business Chief want to remind you to take care of your mental state, focus on self care and - if you're struggling - consider talking to somebody. Stay healthy, folks. 

We are seeing more open discussions about well-being and mental health across all areas of life. Increasingly that openness is permeating the workplace. Most businesses today don’t just want people to be happy at work… they need them to be. Happier people are more productive. One study found that happy employees are up to 20% more productive than unhappy employees. When it comes to salespeople, happiness has an even greater impact, increasing sales by 37%.1

As well as the obvious boost in productivity, happier employees have a positive impact on recruitment and talent management processes. Employees that are happy are less likely to leave, and lower attrition rates not only improve businesses reputationally, but also financially: businesses don’t have to spend as much time and resource on recruitment. As a result, businesses are directly seeing the financial benefit of ensuring that their employees are happy, leading to an even greater focus on well-being.

There are still barriers to overcome, of course. Some are generational. Older workers may be more reluctant on occasions to adopt a stronger focus on wellness and well-being, for example.  Others are technological. Is implementing new technology to utilise data-driven insights into employee habits and happiness a good investment for your organisation, or is it one step too far into the ‘Big Brother’ space?  It is one thing to have dress-down Fridays, complimentary fruit in the office, flexible working, or even mental health coaching at work, but how can businesses utilise the latest tools and structure this in a way that provides clear evidence these initiatives are working?

Businesses and employees want to know that their efforts are supported by real-world metrics. Employees are more likely to buy into an approach if it can tell them that they have, for example, taken five less sick days than they did last year, before the analytics were implemented, or that they are 17.5% happier than they were 12 months previously. This may sound flippant, but in a competitive environment where calories can be tracked through your watch, credit scores obtained via your mobile, or ‘likes’ can be impacted by the algorithms on your favourite social media platform, why shouldn’t happiness be measured in a similar metric?


Scoping an Approach

So, how can businesses overcome these barriers and how can HR drive the process? First, there needs to be a focus on ensuring that the organisation as a whole is open to change. Everyone needs to be on board and perceive their organisation’s effort to change, both culturally and operationally, is genuine.

Everyone needs to know what the strategy is and what part they can play - both individually and collaboratively - in helping to achieve it.  It works well if you have a sponsor or an advocate, whether that is the CEO or the HR Director, for example, who is prepared to say they have a personal connection with the approach and effectively own it. That will be a powerful message in terms of driving buy-in and commitment – literally leading by example. That kind of cross-business sponsorship and engagement has to be genuinely organisation-wide in order to truly work. If HR is pushing this desire for wellness and well-being at work and the finance team is unwilling to fund its initiatives, that could block change from the outset.

But it is also important to recognise that this is not just about scoping out an approach to drive employee well-being  and then achieving a cross-business agreement to deliver it. If you all agreed to be nicer to each other, or if you invested in ice cream Thursdays, you may well see more smiles around the office, but can you prove return on investment on smiles alone? (It turns out you can, but that’s a separate conversation). You need the right systems and solutions in place to back this up with clear data.  There are technologies available to track behaviour, providing data that can demonstrate whether the approach is working and which areas  or issues require a particular focus. It may be that a certain business site is not responding well, or there may be specific policies, such as parental leave or flexible working, which need addressing.


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