Technology is no longer an accessory to a successful company, it’s the reason for a company’s success. It helps us accelerate our growth by automating tasks and updating processes that make us more efficient. It allows us to make informed business decisions based on data and supports stronger customer relationships through more consistent interactions. You might think this covers every nook and cranny of your business, but you’d be wrong.
There’s one area of business that often doesn’t get touched by technology, but it’s an area that could benefit the most from digitization—and it concerns our employees’ emotional well-being.
Burnout is an issue that has long plagued the workforce, but it’s only getting worse. Forty-four percent of employees report that they’re more burned out now than they were a year ago, and the Covid-19 pandemic has spurred what people are calling the ‘Great Resignation’ as a wave of workers leave their jobs because of unmanageable chronic stress.
Losing this talent and having to interview, hire and train an influx of new employees isn’t even the worst of your problems; burnt out employees who stay at your company are even more costly. Disengaged and unproductive workers come with a price tag of around $2,246 per person. Additionally, companies can expect to lose over $225 billion every year from workplace absenteeism as well.
Leaders are responsible for alleviating workplace health management concerns. While checking in more often with your team is a great place to start, it often doesn’t yield valuable information. Here’s how technology can help.
Preventing employees from overworking to exhaustion
Would sticking to a 9-to-5 schedule be ideal? Absolutely. Is it always possible? No.
Our weekly schedules are rarely predictable. Sometimes it’s a standard 40-hour work week, but other weeks we’re working overtime to prioritize deadlines, client calls, and meetings. This is just the reality of business. However, consistent overtime can take a toll on our mental health. Studies show that regularly working 55 hours or more a week can have serious mental and physical side effects. With more employees working remotely because of the pandemic, ensuring workers are maintaining a proper work-life balance is critical.
As of late last year, one in five businesses have started using technology to track workers’ online activity. Understandably, this raises concerns over privacy and whether companies will use this information for good or evil. It’s always a possibility that toxic leaders will exploit data to punish employees, but I believe this technology can be used for good.
If you notice that employees are spending too much time on their devices, it could indicate poor time management—or it could be a sign that they’re over capacity. Too little time spent working could point to an employee who is already feeling the symptoms of burnout. This is when it’s time to do a wellness check and work directly with them to get them the support and development they need. If the latter is reactionary, the former is a proactive approach, and both are equally important.
Monitoring for signs of stress
Because burnout won’t look the same across the workforce, technology can measure stress in all its shapes and sizes. There are two main ways to do this: through facial recognition software and through ‘sentiment analysis.’
Companies like iMotions and Noldus FaceReader use facial recognition software to analyze an employee’s features and look for signs of distress that could signal burnout. Similarly, digital platforms like Erudit AI Inc. can analyze video and text communications between employees and look for predetermined keywords and phrases that would suggest there’s a problem.
Similar to the previous point, this could stir up some controversy at your company, but I believe these tools can really be used with the best interests of your employees in mind. First, it would require that leaders understand how to use this software and accurately translate data—like understanding the difference between a bad day and a longstanding battle with stress. And second, it would demand consent and transparency within your organization.
Creating a personalized ‘happy place’ for workers
We all have unique specifications for the kind of environment we like to work in. Some people need muted lighting, while others prefer working with all the lights on. Some people prefer a quiet office, while others need a little bit of background noise to focus. Some people like working in an open office, while others like the privacy of cubicles. You get the point.
The design of your office space has a direct influence on your employees’ well-being and productivity, but it’s impossible to please everyone. Leaders embrace artificial intelligence and other digital elements for this reason. Technology puts control into the hands of your employees so they can customize their environment to their liking.
Intelligent climate control systems, for example, let workers customize the temperatures in their rooms to their preferred conditions. Similarly, automated sensor systems built into office buildings can adjust the natural light in the building throughout the day. With 60 percent of employees reporting that their companies don’t provide the adequate levels of light for optimal job performance, this could be key to enhancing satisfaction and decreasing stress and burnout.
The future of work is becoming increasingly digital. Just like it’s important to take advantage of technology’s influence for efficiency and profitability, it’s even more important to use digital assets to proactively protect your employees’ well-being. Their happiness and your success depend on it.