How to boost engagement and improve the employee experience with the help of technology

We’ve yet to really grasp the full impact of Covid-19 on the workplace. For now, it’s forced companies to hurriedly shift to remote working and start offering flexible working arrangements – and that’s already having a big impact on the employee experience.

How to boost engagement and improve the employee experience with the help of technology

In the long run, the effect that this new way of working is having on workplace wellbeing is still unclear. What is abundantly clear, however, is that technology can play a key role in supporting the mental wellbeing of the workforce and, subsequently, boosting engagement and improving the employee experience.

The impact of Covid-19 on workplace wellbeing

The employee experience in many organisations has changed dramatically since the start of Covid-19. Zoom meetings and remote or hybrid working have become the norm for many, but how has this new way of working affected staff? Our recent report, Wellbeing at Work, sheds some light.

After surveying more than 1,000 HR managers in the UK and US, we found that demand for mental health support increased by 60% after the start of lockdown. In the financial services industry, this figure rises to 87%.

The data makes it clear that organisations are under increased pressure to offer improvements in mental health support, a crucial first step towards improving the employee experience. But how does mental wellbeing impact employee engagement?

How engagement and mental wellbeing are linked

Engaged employees are happier and more productive. Research from Gallup shows that the relationship between wellbeing and engagement are reciprocal, and when they work together, are capable of supercharging each other, reducing burnout, and increasing productivity. During Covid-19, this correlation seems to have broken down at many companies, with engagement levels holding steady, and even increasing among some remote workers, but wellbeing going down.

But long-term, engagement is impossible to maintain when mental wellbeing is suffering. To address this, organisations will need to capitalise on the advantages of the added flexibility of remote and hybrid work, while taking action to reduce sources of stress and worry, and better supporting their teams. Because if organisations fail to support mental wellbeing and engage more of their workforce, millions of lives could be adversely affected. So what are some ways organisations can use technology to support wellbeing, and with it the employee experience?

Virtual counselling and coaching: some pros and cons

One form of support that many companies offer is virtual counselling or online mental health coaching. Although this approach presents certain advantages, including facetime, convenience and accessibility, compared with traditional, in-person care, it’s worth mentioning the potential pitfalls.

The main pain point with these services is scalability. Synchronous, one-to-one support isn’t always feasible (for therapists or patients). Some employees may struggle to find a regular time for a weekly session or may not feel that their problems are ‘serious’ enough to warrant this type of support.

Crucially, because of a growing shortage of mental health professionals, there are often waiting lists for this kind of support. With demand rapidly outpacing limited supply, the cost to access these services will inevitably increase. And whether the company foots the bill or employees pay for counselling themselves, cost will become a greater barrier to care. And greater barriers to care can cost employees their wellbeing, in addition to costing companies their productive workforce.

A discussion of digital and hybrid solutions

Digital first mental wellbeing services such as mental wellbeing apps can provide an affordable, scalable and - most importantly - effective solution for organisations, offering an entry-level approach wherein your employees receive in-the-moment support via their smartphones. Apps can also be an important source of data and insights into the aggregate mental wellbeing of your workforce. Furthermore, from an employee point-of-view, getting discreet help via an app-based solution may help erase some of the stigma often felt around mental health. Workers who are afraid to discuss their mental health issues with another person may be more willing to use an app to handle stress and anxious thoughts, and build up their coping skills.

Hybrid solutions that combine a digital platform with a clinician or coach’s supervision are another approach that many organisations are embracing. More scalable than traditional face-to-face or even one-to-one telehealth options, but more ‘human’ than purely tech-based alternatives, these solutions can make it easier (and more economical) for employers to support employees. This is particularly true when it comes to those employees who may need additional guidance around how to better understand and live with diagnosed conditions.

Above all else, investing in technology to support mental health is another way employers can show they care about the wellbeing of their workforce. And that’s a big first step towards boosting engagement across your organisation and improving the employee experience for everyone.

The author is Stephen Dunne, chief product officer at Koa Health.

This article is provided by Koa Health.

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