Jo Salter, director in PwC’s People and Organisations business, shares an opinion piece about the role tech can play in wellbeing and performance
Emotional health is a key part of unlocking the potential of our workers. Research shows a third of UK workers currently have a health, wellbeing or mental health issue and an overwhelming 83% feel their wellbeing impacts their productivity. How often have you seen someone turn up to work with their focus elsewhere? Whilst they may be physically at work, they’re not fully there and certainly not as effective, which can lead organisations to face major productivity problems.
In our increasingly connected lives, technology can be an enabler to tackle this issue. We know that happier and healthier people perform better, stay in their business longer, cost less and cause fewer organisational risks. So it follows that, by understanding exactly what is making your workforce feel disengaged, organisations can implement targeted solutions addressing the real issues. Supported by managers who are themselves engaged and care about the wellbeing of their team, innovative technology can help us get to the underlying source of the wellbeing problem.
In my experience, wellbeing and anxiety are interlinked – when we feel anxious it is often because we are in a situation that makes us feel uncomfortable or unprepared. My experience in the RAF was that practice helped me focus on the job on hand, flying, and enabled me to perform at the level I needed to. Repeatedly putting myself in a situation similar to the one that was causing me anxiety helped me overcome feelings that impacted my ability to perform. Flight simulators allow pilots to learn, improve their performance and grow in confidence in a secure and safe environment. Similarly, virtual reality experiences can provide the flight simulator equivalent for workers, helping employees overcome anxieties and improve performance in an engaging, immersive way.
Data can be collected to identify, support and resolve wellbeing issues through gathering team level data and trends that affect wellbeing. The resulting insights can be used to make targeted and effective changes. Through helping employees identify and take responsibility for their own change, big or small, employers can help employees be the best version of themselves.
However, whilst it is recognised that digital tools and analytic advances can help a workforce become more engaged, happier and higher performing – this will only be effective if employers gain the trust and confidence of their people to acquire, store and use personal data appropriately. The good news is that workers are increasingly receptive to the idea of wellbeing at work. PwC research found that two thirds of employees want their employer to take an active role in their health and wellbeing and felt technology should be used to help them do this. However, less than half would willingly accept a free piece of wearable tech if their employees had access to the data recorded.
Employers need to overcome the issue of trust to effectively use technology to support wellbeing. The starting point may be as simple as communicating openly with staff about how the collection of data can benefit them, for example allowing greater freedom to work flexibly or from other locations. Data collected on employees is invaluable for business in helping implement intelligent interventions that get to the crux of the wellbeing issue. If we can break down the trust barrier, the benefits to be gained in terms of performance and wellbeing are well worth the effort that’s needed.
Unsurprisingly, the younger generation of millennial workers are the most comfortable using technology in the workplace, being three times more likely to have used a wellbeing app than those aged over 55. With an ongoing war for talent, how attractive are your benefits and workplace technology to this next generation of workers?