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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

How Top Companies Use Technology to Improve Employee Well-Being

How Top Companies Use Technology to Improve Employee Well-Being

By Megan Wiese, global HR manager at LifeWorks

What do ZapposLinkedIn, and Hitachi have in common?

They all realize the importance of proactively addressing the many facets of employee well-being, from physical and mental health to social and financial health.

In fact, a 2016 study by Paychex revealed that benefits ranging from inexpensive, quality healthcare to work-from-home days and tuition reimbursement were the top drivers of employee retention.

At LifeWorks, we’re seeing more employers go beyond traditional benefits and take a proactive, holistic approach to employee well-being. We like to call this “superhuman resources.”

To go beyond the beloved fitness trackers, consider these three factors of employee well-being that companies are improving with the help of technology:

1. Sleep

You may think employees’ sleep habits only affect them, but William David Brown, a sleep psychologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, thinks otherwise.

Brown stated in a recent NPR article that missing the equivalent of one night’s sleep has the same effect as having a blood alcohol concentration of about 0.1, which would land you a DUI. According to Brown, about a third of employees go to work with a sleep-deprivation-induced impairment level comparable to being intoxicated.

Tech solution: Shoe retailer Zappos tackles decreased productivity caused by sleep deprivation with MetroNaps’ EnergyPods. These sleep pods might look like something out of Star Wars, but they’re increasingly being used in today’s workplaces (at Google, the Huffington Post, and PwC for example).

Armed with built-in speakers for noise cancellation as well as relaxing rhythms, timed waking, and a privacy visor, EnergyPods allow Zappos employees to take short naps during the workday to boost energy levels needed to perform at their best. 

2. Stress

Work-related stress has proven time and time again to have a big impact on employee health. According to a 2016 survey from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, nearly half (44 percent) of working adults say their current job affects their overall health—with only 28 percent of those believing the effect is a positive one.

What’s more, 43 percent of workers with dangerous or low-paying jobs, disabilities, or a job in retail say their job has a negative impact on their stress levels.  

Tech solution: To help employees manage their stress levels, LinkedIn offers a company-wide subscription to Headspace, the popular meditation app.

Headspace provides stress-relief in the form of guided meditation and mindfulness exercises that employees can access on their computers or mobile devices. In fact, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner is such a believer in the meditation tool, he invested in it.

3. Happiness

Employee well-being is centered around happiness. The healthier the employee, the happier they are—and vice versa. The problem is that employees often mask their unhappiness at work in order to protect their job, which makes employee happiness difficult to gauge and improve.

So, how can you tell if an employee is busy, stressed, tired, or just plain unhappy?

Tech solution: At Hitachi, employees wear sensors housed in badges that measure happiness through employee movements. The sensor collects data on various behaviors and motions—time spent sitting, walking, typing, talking, etc.—throughout the day. According to Hitachi, these movements (or lack thereof) have a strong correlation with happiness levels.

Using these metrics, Hitachi can effectively evaluate and manage their efforts to create a workplace that is conducive to individual and overall employee happiness.  

How does your organization use technology to improve employee well-being? Share in the comments.

Megan Wiese is the global HR manager at LifeWorks, an EAP that takes a holistic approach to employee assistance and wellbeing with a robust offering of perks, recognition, rewards, and a communication platform.

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