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How Data-Driven Mental Wellness Gets Results

August 02, 2022 Employee Experience
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By Sarah Fister Gale

Employee mental health is one of the many hot-button topics to emerge in the wake of the pandemic. Half of workers in North America now report experiencing a lot of stress every single day, according to Gallup's State of the Global Workplace 2022 Report.

That constant hum of anxiety is affecting employees' work, relationships and commitment to the job. Leaders who don’t address the issue may be causing damage to their business.

“When you ignore mental health, you are ignoring a significant contributing factor to all of the health issues that employees can incur,” said Joshua Freund, senior benefits manager for Roche Genentech. “This isn’t new information, but what is new is our ability to track it with the technology.”

How Employee Mental Health Data Validates Investments

Companies like Roche Genentech are attempting to rein in these risks by implementing mental health and wellness platforms, like meQuilibrium or Sprout at Work, that provide employees with health-risk assessments to suggest content, coaching, counseling and education that can help meet their specific needs. In many cases, employees can also integrate their apps and wellness trackers to monitor health metrics and track assessment scores over time to see whether their overall well-being is improving.

“There's no one perfect wellness program,” said Brea Giffin, head of sales for Sprout, noting that every employee has different needs based on their ability to deal with stress and external factors in their life. “[But] as data comes in from users, we can better target interventions to their needs.”

The personalized support companies like Sprout and meQuilibrium offer carries a double advantage: On one hand, it adds value for individual employees — a significant plus in this labor market — and it provides HR with valuable data about the mental health of their workforce.

The data retains employee anonymity, but it nevertheless allows HR leaders to track user rates and overall trends to identify potential issues that require attention. For example, they can see the percentage of employees who regularly access the service, the programs that are most popular and how trends change over time.

“Because it's a software application, we can systematically identify risks across the organization to understand where there are risk factors,” said Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium.

Related Article: Mending the Disconnect Between Well-Being Efforts and Results

Identify Health Challenges Before They Become a Problem

When companies take advantage of that data, it can have a measurable impact on key business goals. MeQuilibrium data, for instance, shows that proactively identifying and addressing behavioral health risks in the workplace before they reach crisis levels can lead to 10 to 30% reduction in overall attrition, with the biggest impact on employees under 35.

“Gen Z love interacting digitally, so we can get them help more efficiently, which causes attrition rates to be significantly lower,” Bruce said.

Most platforms offer easy-to-read dashboards and the ability to generate custom reports that make it easy to visualize issues and monitor changes over time. That kind of insight can be a real game-changer for HR leaders eager to ease stress and anxiety in their workforce.

“HR leaders often bring the insights to business reviews and monthly working sessions,” Bruce said. “It gives them the power of prediction to understand what's going on across an employee population, so they can systematically and strategically help people.”

Related Article: How Approaches to Mental Health in the Workplace Have Changed

Multiple Applications for Wellness Data

The easy access to wellness data can be especially helpful in large companies where HR can’t closely monitor the needs of individual teams, said Shannon Coulombe, benefits manager for Specialty Building Products, a distributor with 2,400 employees in 36 locations.

“Adopting a mobile-first well-being platform means all of our employees have access to personalized programming when and where it works best for them,” she said. 

One of her employees’ favorite features in the Sprout app is the ability to integrate data from their wearable devices and apps into the platform so they can track their wellness metrics. “Employees are going to each use the technology in a highly personalized way, but it’s the company’s role to provide the resource and make them feel comfortable using it,” Coulombe said.

Other HR leaders use the data to shape future workforce policies. For example, Roche Genentech is using data from meQuilibrium to inform remote work plans. During the pandemic, a large segment of the Roche population had to be on site, while others were fully remote, which resulted in very different mental health trends. Early on, the data showed that constant COVID testing and mask-wearing increased stress levels for on-site employees, whereas being 100% remote was great at first but eventually led to higher levels of burnout.

“We saw very clear divisions between the people who were required to go into work and the people who weren't, and those divisions are still things we are wrestling with today,” Freund said.

These insights will help Freund's team make recommendations about when and how often people need to be on campus and what support they will need to be productive. Tracking data on employee mental health gives him the tools to address these issues before they affect the work.

“Rather than forcing people to work through their stress till they burn out, we think it's better to support our employees’ mental health and make sure that they are able to do a really good job,” he said.


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