Matthew Lawrence: How technology has a role to play in improving employees’ resilience

Matthew Lawrence: How technology has a role to play in improving employees' resilience

You have got that call to return, a dozen urgent emails to respond to, a podcast you have been meaning to listen to, 8,764 steps still to walk, your latest online credit card statement to pay… and it is not even 9am. Know the feeling?

On a day-to-day basis, benefits are likely the last thing on people’s minds as they navigate through seemingly endless sources of information, all with the ease of consumption at their fingertips. But while technology is guilty of contributing to our cognitive overload and busy lives, it might also be the key to enhancing our wellbeing and building our resilience in tackling everyday stresses and strains.

Employers should be taking advantage of this opportunity, by deploying more sophisticated digital solutions to engage with their employees, especially in the midst of a global pandemic where employee resilience is being tested.

As more and more businesses look to develop meaningful benefits schemes, we explore how technology is helping to connect employees to the benefits they need and incentivising them to make positive behavioural changes.

The link between health, wellbeing and resilience, and why it matters

A study by Aon, The rising resilient, how workforce resilience will enable businesses to thrive, published in September 2020, found that only 30% of employees are deemed as being resilient, which is concerning when right now, businesses need people who can weather storms, who feel secure, productive and motivated in their jobs, and can rapidly adapt to change. Workforce resilience is a product of investing in the health and wellbeing of people, but it is not just about making the financial investment. To foster resilience in their people, an employer’s approach to wellbeing needs to be intelligently aligned to the needs of the workforce, well communicated, and within an environment at work that allows resilience to thrive.

Incentivising behavioural change

Resilience requires a culture of self-awareness and responsibility where the employer provides the employee with the tools to help to manage their health and wellbeing. But despite being inundated with advice about how to lead healthier lifestyles and make better choices through better diets, more exercise, adequate sleep, and proper relaxation for our health and wellbeing, lasting behavioural change is hard.

Providing a gym membership is not enough. A real commitment to improving the health and fitness of the workforce should include creating a culture that actively supports and embraces it.

Technological advances have removed barriers to flexible working, and more organisations are actively encouraging remote working as a result of successful pandemic lockdown necessity. Remote working has a positive impact on productivity, while professionals who spend 60-80% of their time working remotely reported being the most engaged with their work, according to a 2017 Gallup poll.

But at what cost is this to the personal wellbeing of employees? Those who work remotely are working harder and longer; checking emails outside of work hours more frequently, juggling more projects, and working later, according to The modern workplace report, published in 2019 by Global Web Index.

If employers are also using apps to improve staff wellbeing, how do they ensure these digital aids are being used effectively and for the long term? One of the ways is about having the ability to send timely, relevant, personalised and targeted reminders to employees to take a break, do some mindful breathing, access coaching, and complete a digital fitness workout. These nudges can be hugely beneficial to employee wellbeing and resilience, but are perhaps even more pertinent when it comes to agile working.

Why getting the right benefits is so important

Having access to powerful data-driven insights about a workforce is critical when it comes to designing a benefits programme that truly understands employee needs. And developing benefits that deliver true value requires a comprehensive and holistic approach. Employers cannot view their workforce’s physical, social, emotional, professional, and financial wellbeing in isolation since they are so intrinsically linked and employees do not typically think about their wellbeing in such a structured, pillar-based way.

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Instead, devising personalised, flexible benefits enables people to access what is most relevant to them. Combining this with incentivised, simple, and fun technology can also encourage more meaningful and consistent engagement with these benefits and, ultimately, lead to a more resilient workforce.

Matthew Lawrence is chief broking officer at Aon