How can benefits technology help employers identify wellbeing needs?

Need to know:

  • The Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has underlined the need for employers to keep track of employee mental health.
  • Apps and surveys can provide vital information.
  • Wearables and mood-tracking technology can also help inform strategy.

Keeping a watchful eye on employees’ physical and mental health has never been so important. Not only are employees under more stress than ever before as a result of Covid-19 (Coronavirus), they are also largely confined to working from home, raising the prospect of developing conditions that may otherwise have been spotted going undiagnosed with potentially serious consequences.

As with so much else in the current landscape, technology is helping to provide a solution. Craig Williams, director, employee benefits, at Broadstone, says: “In the absence of seeing employees in-person, wellbeing technology could be the only reliable way to successfully identify employee wellbeing requirements.

“We are seeing a significantly increased focus on pulse surveys, targeted wellbeing surveys, online wellbeing suggestion boxes, in-depth benefit platform analytics, absence reporting tools and provider feedback. The combination of these is arguably providing many employers with a better insight into their staff’s wellbeing than has ever previously been the case.”

Aggregated information

Pooling information derived from apps can show what employees are interested in or worried about, says Martin Blinder, CEO and co-founder of health and wellbeing platform Tictrac. “The key here is aggregated insights,” he says. “[Imagine] Google analytics: employers can have that type of dashboard to really understand employee needs, which they probably haven’t been able to see before.

“For instance, the majority of people on our app say they want to lose weight, but actually the content they end up engaging with could be yoga, stretching or physio. This enables an employer to see they may need to focus on particular elements of wellbeing or address physio issues with better chairs at home offices.”

Such aggregated information can also be gleaned through online surveys, but it’s important to act on anything that arises from such an exercise, says James Malia, director at financial wellbeing tech platform MyEva. “Management information can be hugely valuable,” he says. “If [an employer] can identify that [their] Gen Z don’t have debt but aren’t saving either, then there is a red flag. Look at how best to help them understand their money better and start to save, set goals and prevent debt when their next ‘big purchase’ comes into sight. Prevention is all too often way better than a cure.”

Wearable technology, which can help to track activity and be used to generate friendly competition among staff or teams, also remains hugely popular. “These have the advantage of encouraging activity, promoting healthy eating, suggesting relaxation and time-out sessions and even monitoring the wearer’s vital signs in case of a real health emergency,” says Williams. “Employers are increasingly supporting the purchase of wearables, and looking to offset this cost with the reductions in absenteeism and increases in productivity that healthier lifestyles encourage.”

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Other technology is simpler still. Devices such as Moodbeam One allows employees to express how they are feeling on a daily basis, enabling HR teams to identify any potential issues or longer-term trends. “In a global pandemic situation, being able to get this feedback from staff quickly without relying on appraisals or carrying out surveys is really crucial and identifies issues before they become critical,” says Moodbeam One co-founder Christina Colmer McHugh.

Information gleaned from wellbeing technology can also help shape broader benefits offering, says Steve White, head of marketing at Gallagher: “Technology aligned with an employee value proposition and benefits strategy can measure the effectiveness and relevance of the benefits strategy based on engagement and uptake, and also interpret shifting weighting and prioritisation of benefits that contribute to emotional and physical wellbeing.”