Solutions Driven

How AI Technology Supports Employee Mental Health and Wellness

In recent years, our mental health and well-being have become important topics. Not only are we all now far more aware of mental health challenges, but our employers have more responsibility than ever to ensure we’re happy and safe while at work. According to the CIPD’s 2022 Health and Wellbeing at Work report, 81% of employers cited an increased focus on employee mental health post-pandemic.

Did you know that working conditions and our environment can have a huge impact on mental health? In turn, our mental health can have a substantial effect on the quality of our work. And when you consider that 14.7% of people are now said to experience mental health problems in the workplace, that’s a lot of potentially reduced output.

Enter artificial intelligence (AI). AI is having a profound impact in all areas of our lives, but do you know about its potential applications in supporting employee mental health? It’s a topic covered in depth in our recent downloadable white paper, Unlocking the Power of AI: Overcoming Challenges for Enhanced Productivity and Employee Wellbeing. Not only are companies implementing AI to help simplify or speed up operational processes they’re now leaning on AI for support when it comes to the wellbeing of staff.

So just how can AI help? That’s the subject of this blog. If you want to know more so about AI’s power in supporting mental health and wellness at work, keep reading!

Understanding Employee Mental Health Challenges 

According to statistics, anxiety and depression are among the most common mental health conditions globally in 2024. Individuals tend to feel more mental pressure, probably because of an overall faster pace of life. There are also the negative effects of social media, plus cyberbullying, and cybercrime. Street crimes like robbery knife attacks and car theft were up 4% in 2023. And let’s not forget global issues like the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest, terrorism, and climate change: 64% of UK adults admitted being concerned about the future of our planet. 

Then there’s the fact that people can struggle to achieve a healthy work/life balance. Workers in the UK rack up some of the longest hours in Europe – on average 42 hours per week. Therefore it’s unsurprising that 31% of UK employees feel they don’t have a good work/life balance and 50% of those who switch jobs do so for that reason. 

The Health and Safety Executive reports that a total of 18.6 workdays per year per employee are lost due to depression and anxiety. And the cost to businesses of poor mental health, according to research by Deloitte, is £56 billion per year (this figure was £45 billion as of 2019 suggesting a phenomenal increase).

Workplace Specific Mental Health Challenges

Employee mental health affects far more than just an individual’s personal health – issues often spill over into their professional life too.

As some of the stats above point out, mental health challenges at work have recently become more common, prompting businesses to place more of a focus on employee wellbeing. 

High-stress environments, burnout, emotional exhaustion, and a lack of work-life balance top the list of concerns that can significantly impact an individual’s mental health. And then there are problems such as a lack of self-care and/or support, and of course, workplace bullying which can make these kinds of situations even worse.

Any kind of mental health condition is likely to result in decreased productivity and an increase in sick days – not to mention turnover rates in severe cases. Yet the stigma still sometimes attached to mental health issues (despite it being more widely discussed) can make it difficult for those affected to speak up and seek help.

And this is why employers are prioritising the mental health of their staff. It’s not just about employee welfare – instead, it’s a worthwhile investment in an organisation’s productivity and overall health. If employers can create an environment that’s mental-health aware, they’ll not only benefit from more productive teams but will create a culture of openness and resilience. And, ultimately, a happier workforce.

AI Applications for Supporting Employee Mental Health

AI is one way that companies are looking to monitor and manage workplace mental health. Here’s how it’s being implemented: 

For Early Intervention and Detection: AI algorithms are key in the way we approach workplace mental health. Did you know they can accurately identify early signs of stress, burnout, and other mental health issues in employees? For instance, there’s things like sentiment analysis on emails and productivity patterns which can alert managers, team leaders or HR to potential well-being concerns early on and before they become more serious issues.

For Personalised Support: AI-powered platforms are great for offering tailored mental health resources and recommendations. Many of us are familiar with fitness watches or apps on our phones to monitor steps, heart rates, etc. and provide custom recommendations. Now AI chatbots and virtual assistants (check out the likes of Woebot or Wysa) work in a similar way to provide 24/7 support and will guide employees through mindfulness exercises or coping strategies based on individual needs and preferences.

For Workload Management: AI now has the capability to optimise workloads and schedules, and as such is a game-changer for reducing workplace stress. By using advanced analytics and predictive modelling, AI systems can help us to evenly distribute tasks and set realistic deadlines to prevent employee burnout. Tools like Trello or Asana – which help us with prioritising tasks and managing time – are great for ensuring that employees manage their responsibilities without feeling overwhelmed.

Benefits of AI in Employee Mental Health and Wellness

AI has many benefits for employers. It’s transforming traditional approaches to employee mental health and wellness in a few ways.

Firstly, accessibility. Take employees working remotely, for instance. AI-powered tools can provide support and resources at the click of a button. This means that mental health services are super-accessible, regardless of someone’s location or work schedule.

Then there’s efficiency. The initial stages of AI-based mental health support can be automated – think interactive platforms for identifying issues or suggestions for self-help options. Automation like this means a reduction in admin and an increase in efficiency, all while ensuring employees are receiving the support they need.

Anonymity and confidentiality are also huge benefits. AI-powered programmes provide a safe space for employees to voice concerns and get help, without the fear of stigma or judgement. If they trust that privacy is guaranteed, they’re more likely to feel confident and to make the most of the support offered to them. 

And, of course, one of the biggest benefits of providing AI-based support is that people are also likely to feel like they’re supported and cared for at work.

Ethical Considerations and Challenges

Like everything, imp AI does come with its share of challenges. They include:

  1. Privacy and Data Security: With more and more of us using AI-driven platforms for employee mental health, it’s natural to see privacy concerns surface. The answer is ensuring that tech is designed with data security at its core, ensuring that personal information is guarded as fiercely as any other health record. Ensure robust encryption methods and strict access controls to maximise confidentiality and trust.
  2. Bias and Fairness: Bias in AI algorithms is always a challenge, but especially so in applications relating to mental health. It’s important to pay attention to things like cultural sensitivities and to incorporate diverse data sets and ethical principles to encourage fairness, wherever possible.
  3. Employee Trust and Acceptance: For mental health AI to work well, it’s crucial to gain the trust of employees. This involves clearly communicating how the AI tools you choose to roll out work, their benefits, and, importantly, how privacy and security are ensured. 

Future Directions and Opportunities

So, what does the future of AI technology for workplace mental health and wellbeing look like? Here’s a few of our predictions.

Without a doubt we’ve not seen AI reach its limit yet. Expect a promising future for AI in supporting mental health and wellness. We foresee advancements that bring even more personalised, responsive, and intuitive platforms. And innovations like natural language processing and predictive analytics will further refine systems, making early intervention and tailored assistance better than ever.

There are so many opportunities for AI tech to blend into the fabric of HR processes. When you think about things like onboarding and training, AI could play an important role in identifying needs, monitoring levels of stress, and offering resources. The ways it could enhance the overall work experience and promote a healthier workplace are endless.

On a larger scale, AI has the potential to change the way we support employee mental health globally. Its scalability and adaptability mean that companies in any location can build bespoke solutions to meet their own specific challenges.

As mental health continues to affect not only individuals at work but the organisations they work for, AI provides us with a host of hopeful solutions for successfully monitoring and managing wellbeing.  

In a world where it seems many of us will experience mental health issues at some time in our lives – and where businesses now have an increased responsibility for the wellbeing of their staff – it’s comforting to know that advances in AI will help. 

Innovative solutions promise to address challenges and make work support more accessible than ever before. And that means a stronger, more resilient, and thriving workplace.

If you’d like to know more about the transformative power of AI at work, download our white paper, Unlocking the Power of AI: Overcoming Challenges for Enhanced Productivity and Employee Wellbeing.

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