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20 Dec 2023
by Nick McClelland

How to make AI your ally in a new era of employee wellbeing

With 70% of managers saying organisational barriers affect how well they can support employee health, artificial intelligence can provide tools to make it easier

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It takes time and wellbeing resources to create a workforce that is happy, motivated and successful. With an estimated 51% of long-term sick leave a result of stress, depression or anxiety, it is an area employers cannot ignore.

But, 70% of managers say organisational barriers – such as company policy, unmanageable workloads, toxic culture and a lack of training – prevent them from being able to adequately support the health of their employees.

As a result, the corporate wellbeing market is undergoing a transformation that will see significant innovation through artificial intelligence (AI). AI is emerging as a game-changer in wellbeing, with the ability to reimagine how organisations approach and support the health of their employees.

And it’s not just intuitive software such as ChatGPT. We are talking about AI that completely alters and enhances employee experiences, helping to create an inclusive environment.

Personalising wellbeing

One of the big advantages of AI in the corporate wellbeing market is its potential to provide personalised solutions. With the help of AI-driven algorithms, employers can analyse large pools of employee data, such as health metrics, and working and personal preferences. This allows companies to offer tailored wellness programmes and support, which in turn can encourage employees to prioritise their health, wellbeing and self-improvement

From personalised fitness routines to stress management techniques, AI-driven wellbeing solutions will cater to employees and make it easier for them to engage and benefit.

Health insights in real-time

Incorporating AI-powered wearables and health trackers into corporate wellbeing initiatives allows real-time health monitoring that gives instant insights. This could potentially be the most contentious aspect of AI in corporate wellbeing due to the need to protect personal data.

In 2020, PWC ran a pilot scheme to measure the full impact of Covid-19 – as well as lockdowns – on employee mental health and wellbeing. Lifestyle and biometric data – such as information on heart rate and sleep – was collected from 1,000 wearable devices and analysed by AI programmes so that the business could get a clear picture of potential health concerns.

Continuously collecting data on various health parameters – such as heart rate, sleep patterns, and activity levels – can provide opportunities to support employees while also aggregating data for the organisation. The data processed by AI algorithms could provide employees and employers with insights into their health and wellbeing, insights that they were perhaps not initially aware of.

Real-time health information can help employees better understand their bodies and needs, acting as a guide for them when making informed decisions about their lifestyle.

Mental health support with a difference

With the incredibly fast advances in AI, virtual assistants and chatbots could soon be used to support employee mental health. With 24/7 access, digital assistants could offer a safe and confidential way for employees to discuss their feelings and challenges without fear of judgment.

Through natural language processing and sentiment analysis, AI chatbots could recognise signs of stress, anxiety or depression in employees’ communication patterns. It can then offer them the appropriate resources and personalised coping strategies.

This kind of mental health support could combat the shame that can still be felt around asking for help and offer a solution that is easy, comfortable and safe for employees.

It’s all about the data

These days, data is king. Being able to evidence actions and insights with data is something organisations can’t afford to go without. And the data generated from corporate wellbeing initiatives is an opportunity for employers to gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of their programmes.

The truth is this data is being stored in different places with wildly different levels of governance, making it hard to derive genuine and trusted insights. What AI algorithms can offer is the chance to analyse data, identify patterns, trends and correlations that human eyes might miss.

Companies will be able to refine and optimise their wellbeing strategies, allowing them to direct their resources into areas that will have the most significant impact.

Holy Grail of employee engagement

Engaging employees in wellbeing programmes has often proved to be the most challenging part of implementing a health and wellness initiative. But AI introduces new ideas and avenues to increase engagement, including gamification and incentivising employees. AI-powered gamification elements – challenges, rewards and competitions – could create greater engagement.

But it goes far beyond this. AI algorithms can also analyse employee preferences and interests to offer truly personalised incentives, further motivating employees to actively participate. While a balance surely needs to be struck between human design and interaction, we are already becoming used to AI and algorithms improving our everyday consumer experiences.

Predictive and proactive analytics

AI’s predictive capabilities could be become a decisive reason for organisations to invest in it. Preventing burnout and stress-related issues in the workplace, predicting cost increases of private healthcare, and identifying future absence or attrition are areas where AI has the biggest potential to align with corporate strategy – particularly ESG targets and measurements – and improve the lives of employees.

This predictive approach will make HR professionals more strategic, giving them the room to support leaders and managers when it comes to intervening, offering support, adjustments to workloads, or taking time-off as needed. As a result, organisations can maintain a healthy and sustainable workforce while empowering employees to achieve their full potential.

Supporting new ways of working

The rise of remote working has brought forth new challenges to employee wellbeing. AI-powered tools can play a key role in supporting employees’ mental health and work-life balance in a remote setting.

Solutions such as AI-driven virtual collaboration platforms could help team bonding and increase those all vital social interactions employees can miss when working from home, combating feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Additionally, AI-powered time management tools can help employees establish clear boundaries between work and personal life, promoting a healthy work-life balance.

Striking the balance

While AI can provide invaluable tools for promoting employee wellbeing, it is essential to remember that technology cannot ever replace human touch and empathy.

Companies must always remember to strike the right balance between AI-driven initiatives and compassionate leadership. Only through this can they ensure employees receive the care and support they need to be happy and healthy, both professionally and personally.

In partnership with Champion Health

One platform. All areas of wellbeing. Empowering employee wellbeing through data, insight and action

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