Is tech the key to out wellbeing, or an opponent to it? In the latest roundtable hosted by the Great British Entrepreneur Awards and haysmacintyre, experts and entrepreneurs get together to discuss the relationship between tech and stress.
These days, developments in technology are plentiful. What some might have considered unimaginable many years ago is now very much reality. Businesses, whether small or large have been forced to embrace the tech-trend or risk being left in the dust. Technology has been used to address a variety of issues in business, inducing the recent move to working from home, which wouldn’t have been achievable without the advancements we’ve seen in tech over the last decade. With tech being used to solve a plethora of issues, it was inevitable that our own wellbeing in the workplace would make it’s way into the tech world.
What is now known as the “global corporate wellness market” is expected to grow at an annual 7% rate by 2028, already being valued in the tens of billions in 2020, according to a report by Grand View Research. With corporate eyes and ears keenly focused on our wellbeing at work, tech is being implemented in a variety of ways to attempt to measure whether we’re satisfied or stressed.
But is tech truly the key to our wellbeing?
Some may argue that certain implementations of technology to monitor an employee’s wellbeing could be considered intrusive or inhumane…
The most recent roundtable, hosted by the Great British Entrepreneur Awards and haysmacintyre, brings together a group of experts and entrepreneurs, who put their knowledge on tech and stress to the test by discussing whether the answer to our wellbeing woes can be found in the implementation of technology in the workplace.
Beginning the discussionLorena Puica of IamYiam, explains that during the early years of her career, workplace wellbeing was not at the forefront of the minds of employees, nor businesses themselves.
“I was in my twenties and I was oblivious to most of the challenges in the health space,” she says, further explaining that despite being unaware of the majority of challenges faced in the workplace when it came to health, she had still assumed these problems were being addressed, “I still expected that from an organisational perspective, there would be a small amount of awareness and some tools provided.”
“But at that time, that was not the case,” continues Lorena, “I think over the past five or six years, [wellbeing] has really moved to the top of the agenda of most organisations.”
Being considerably passionate about her work, Lorena understands more than most the importance of raising awareness, mentioning that much like her, many may be unaware of the consequences of a constant immersion in their workload in their early careers.
“I think it’s the responsibility of the organisation to raise awareness,” she says, “it’s wonderful that people are committed to their work, that they’re passionate and give everything, but they need to be told there are some tools that might support them not reaching the breaking point.”
Lorena effectively highlights the importance of awareness when it comes to mental health in the workplace, but should all the responsibility be on the shoulders of the business, or is it a team effort? Phil Davies of FlyForm gives his own input as a CEO and founder.
“An interesting approach would be a split between the individual and the organisation,” says Phil, despite his own contribution to his businesses mental health initiatives, Phil elaborates on Lorena’s previous point by pointing out that we shouldn’t entirely rely on businesses when it comes to our mental health:
“I think unfortunately because of the nature of business these days, someone somewhere needs to make sure businesses are doing what they’re supposed to do,” says Phil, highlighting the need for involvement from the government to moderate businesses contributions to the mental health workplace space. “there needs to be a safety net for companies that aren’t addressing this problem, which is still a massive issue.”
There are so many resources available to monitor your own, or your employees’ mental health, whoever may be responsible for ensuring wellbeing will not be short of resources that’s for sure. A more complex issue, however, is finding the balance between utilising the data, whilst still employing a human emotional aspect that allows us to empathise with eachother in the workplace.
Giving his own perspective on the matter, Charlie Winton of OK Positive says: “you can’t just have a reactive response to things within a business, from an organisational perspective, you need to look at how you can get the best out of your people, because that in return gets you the best out of your bottom line and your profit as an organisation.”
“When I look at mental health support, I see preventative, proactive and reactive,” Charlie continues, “99% of solutions look at proactive and reactive, whether that’s an app that helps you with breathing, whether that’s an EAP or a counsellor, you’re waiting there until there’s a problem before you go and solve it.”
“I see tech working on its own to pre-empt triggers, to allow people to realise things they would have never realised before,” says Charlie, expressing the importance of preventative measures in wellbeing-tech, utilised alongside human action, rather than a reaffirmation of what many know already, which is that they’re simply stressed.
“We need to be able to use tech to tell us things we didn’t know beforehand,” says Charlie, “once you get the organisation and the individual coming to that middle point where they both agree to get the best out of everything in that situation, we’ll see much more profitable, productive and loyal employees in business.”
Pre-emptively addressing problems is a strong solution for both our mental and physical health, and utilising tech can be an effective tool when it comes to monitoring and stopping detrimental factors in their tracks before they become a real issue. But outside of diet and meditation, looking deeper into the workplace, the impact of certain aspects in a working environment can be an important consideration.
“A big part of fostering wellbeing in the workplace is actually looking at the fundamental factors that impact it,” says Lee Chambers of Essentialise. Explaining how many factors come into play well within the workplace rather than just the individual themselves, he states “things around workload, how the clarity of a role directly impacts a person’s wellbeing and looking at the aspects around autonomy and appreciation are things tech can create efficiencies in.”
“A massive thing with tech in the workplace when it comes to mental health, is trust, accessibility and functionality,” Lee says, “employees are looking at these aspects more and more because while they don’t mind giving a level of qualitative data, they’re much more likely to give quantitative, which provides data to work with from a strategic, objective perspective when it comes to wellbeing, but that can then present challenges and delves into that area where that human connection is being eroded or lost.”
“We want to find ways to become the masters of the technology that builds wellbeing, rather than technology becoming the master of the population,” finishes Lee.
Adoption of tech is happening rapidly across all aspects of business, with wellbeing now at the forefront of many agendas. Some think many are simply getting swept up in the trend rather that making genuine considerations when it comes to tech implementation - especially wellbeing.
Stephanie Henson of techtimeout believes there’s a problem that needs to be addressed in businesses implementation of tech, “I think the problem is, everyone’s throwing technology into businesses at a rapid rate,” she says, “I do think technology is the saviour, but you can’t just throw it in, then tick a box, you can’t just put something in and then hope it’s going to work.”
Speaking of her own experience providing wellbeing platforms, tech and initiatives in the professional services space, Stephanie says, “there’s a huge opportunity and need for this sort of service, but the motivation for why, the bottom line is still marketing and recruitment issues, so the actual drive for why might not be as genuine as we might have hoped.”
When discussing the effectiveness of the implementation of wellbeing related tech and initiatives in general, Stephanie explains that while the thought is there, incorrect motivations behind wellbeing tech implementation can undermine its efforts. “The employees might be like, ‘this is all great, but my manager is still sending me emails on a Sunday,’” she says, “It’s not necessarily the top or the bottom we’re trying to reach, it’s actually the middle-management area.”
“That’s the challenge that we have, how do we re-educate a culture of managers that have managed in a particular way for the last 20-30 years, where they expect productivity on the basis of time worked equals productivity,” asks Stephanie, ““I think that’s a challenge we collectively need to address.”
“Yes you can throw tech in, but how do you do it in a way that truly engages with people in order to make a difference?” finalises Stephanie.
Going off Stephanie’s point regarding motivations behind wellbeing tech leading the way amongst many businesses, Simon Scott-Nelson of Wellity Global adds his own perspective on how while the outward appearance of a business may orient itself towards wellbeing, the disingenuous façade ends up falling apart once many employees break into the culture and positions of employment - resulting in a variety of consequences.
“I think the churn is a real issue,” he says, “the levels of sign-off are now unbelievable within organisations, yes they have an outward ambition to increase the wellbeing of their teams, but that usually relies on an individual stakeholder.”
“If that stakeholder moves from an organisation, you have to reverse back into that period of education,” says Simon, “however, what we’ve noticed over the past few years is that a lot of the education has been done anyway by society.”
“The thing about senior leadership is, if they’re going to have an open door policy, they’re going to have to be the first ones to walk through that door,” continues Simon, “there’s an uncertainty when you introduce something to an organisation, if they don’t see any of the senior leadership participating, then many have a level of fear and a lack of trust that causes them to not have the confidence to walk through themselves.”
Commenting on the extensive insight given by the roundtable and reflecting on some of their points, Jon Dawson, partner at haysmacintyre says: “Wellbeing in the workplace is high on many organisations’ agendas but the motives behind this can vary from the impact of wellbeing on the bottom line, to societal pressures or personal experiences.
Whilst employers are in a position to support workplace wellbeing, it’s widely acknowledged that individuals must take an element of responsibility for their own wellbeing and so employers are looking to equip their staff with tools and techniques to help them do this. Whilst technology may be a contributing factor in poor health and wellbeing for some of us, many of the wellbeing initiatives being adopted by employers utilise technology to help support their staff. This is an exciting and necessary time for the technology industry, as it looks to correct some of the wider issues that it played a part in creating.”