It’s Time to Change Our Approach to Employee Wellbeing

‘Time to change’. You may recognize this phrase as the headline of Mind’s ambitious campaign to change the stigma around mental health. In line with this great work, we believe it’s also important we look at how to change the way employee mental health is handled in the workplace.

According to Mercer’s 2019 report on mental health at work, two in five employees have experienced poor mental health due to work-related issues or stated work as a contributing factor. 

Most employers would agree they have a responsibility to take care of their staff; not only to keep workers healthy but also because it helps productivity. By law, employers are required to provide the information, instruction, training, and supervision necessary to ensure the health and safety of their employees at work. Unfortunately, acknowledging this responsibility doesn’t always allow companies to enact change in practice. The truth is, mental health is complex and hard to measure. Every person responds differently to different interventions and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

According to figures from the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), the “wellness economy” was valued at over $4 trillion in 2018. Contributing to this massive figure is that companies are investing significantly in workplace wellbeing, offering yoga classes, fresh fruit and smoking cessation courses, there may be confusion at their disappointing effect on absence rates or wellbeing. Traditionally, employers use surveys and indexes to measure changes in wellbeing, but as we see mental health issues at work rising, it’s clear that a new approach is needed. 

It’s really hard to know what employees need, and which interventions work. The exciting thing is that we already have the tools at our fingertips. One of these tools is artificial intelligence (AI). There’s no doubt that AI has changed our daily routines: protecting our phones with face ID, providing instant access to safe and secure taxi rides or finding alternative car routes based on real-time traffic data. These applications have affected millions of people worldwide. It’s time to bring this approach to the workplace to make a real impact on mental health. 

We’ve developed our product (BioBase) to offer comprehensive data insights about employee wellbeing, giving HR departments aggregated information about physiological and psychological wellbeing. Employers can use anonymized data to find out what their workers need to be healthy, happy, and productive. 

Employees are given a wearable device linked to an application on their phone. The device gathers data about how the body is functioning (sleep, activity and heart rate) and couples this with self-reported psychological information about mood and cognitive function. Then, it correlates how the body is doing with how the mind perceives stress.

Having access to this new information will enable employers to deploy programs that are targeted and personalized for their workforce. As an example, if general physical activity levels have dropped, HR leaders could put in place an intervention encouraging physical activity at work; running a fitness class or implementing walking meetings. Moreover, notable increases in a poor mood and its physiological correlates (poor sleep, poor recovery from stress) could inspire early-intervention counseling services that are preventative as opposed to merely reactive. The combination of biometric and psychometric insights allow companies to create programs directly related to the problems of their workers,  and to monitor their effects in real-time. 

Our product BioBase is specifically designed to tackle workplace wellbeing and empower everyone to take control of their mental health. Implementing new and improved tools in the workplace will help push wellbeing up the corporate agenda, transform people’s working lives and improve mental health across the globe.

About the author: Dr. David Plans is Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder at BioBeats, responsible for developing the company vision and business strategy. David founded BioBeats in 2014 as an app that created music from a person’s own heartbeat in order to create a form of biofeedback that could engage the user and use cardiovascular data to understand stress. After developing the product and offering further, David and his Co-Founders focused the company on supporting the wellbeing of people both in and out of work and building resilience to stress. 


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