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With mental health challenges on the rise, workers turn to technology for help

Emily He Profile picture for user Emily He October 27, 2020
A new survey shows how much remote working and the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the mental health of workers. Oracle's Emily He explains how technology can help

Silhouettes of people mental health teamwork and communication concept and connected lines with dots © GrAl - Shutterstock
(© GrAl - Shutterstock)

2020 has drastically changed the global workforce. We've all been forced to adapt to new working-from-home norms, battling blurred lines between personal and professional lives, and learning to 'connect' with our teams via Zoom or other types of virtual conference calls. In a matter of days, nearly the entire global workforce went remote.

Prior to the pandemic, many organizations doubted whether remote work actually 'works' — and now we can confidently say that it does. In fact, many companies have found that remote workers are even more productive than in an office. But it all comes at a cost.

While we've validated the effectiveness of a remote workforce, we're now faced with a stressed and burned out workforce that's battling significant mental health challenges. A new study that surveyed over 12,000 employees across 11 countries found that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the mental health of 78% of the global workforce, and they're turning to both technology and their employers for help.

COVID-19 consequences for mental health at work

This year has been the most stressful year ever for workers around the world. Not only are they facing the uncertainty, fear, and unknown of a global pandemic, but many have also been forced to adopt new roles like teacher, childcare provider, or family nurse — all while working more hours than ever before.

Many of us — including myself — initially thought that having no commute time meant more time to work out, spend quality time with family, or catch up on sleep. But in reality, that commute time was quickly filled up with more work and more meetings. According to the study, 35% of the global workforce are working 10+ more hours per week — that's more than 40 extra hours every month! As a result, 25% of respondents cited being burned out from overwork.

People worldwide are dealing with increased stress and anxiety at work, and 85% of survey respondents said it's not only impacting their professional lives, but their personal lives too. At work, increased mental health challenges are impacting the bottom line, with workers admitting their productivity plummets (42%) and they make more poor decisions (40%). And on the home front, workplace stress and anxiety is causing sleep deprivation (40%), poor physical health (35%), and reduced happiness at home (33%).

Mental health knows no boundaries between work and home. It's impacting workers everywhere. And they want and need help.

Turning to technology for mental health support

While mental health is impacting a vast majority of the global workforce, many workers are hesitant to ask for help. Why? Because there's a stigma around mental health. And, because of the pandemic, many are worried about job security, fearing that if they admit to struggling with mental health it may put their employment in jeopardy.

This is where technology can help. Over 80% of the workers surveyed believe that robots can support their mental health better than humans, and 68% would even prefer to talk to a robot over their manager about stress and anxiety at work.

Why? Because technology like AI and digital assistants provide an unbiased, judgement-free outlet, according to 34% of respondents. For some people, asking a chatbot for mental health resources is far less intimidating than facing the judgement of a person.

Additionally, technology-based support for mental health can be available 24/7. If you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed at 11pm, a chatbot or robot counselor can be there to provide resources or best practices to cope. Moreover, people want technology to help. Over 80% of the global workforce would like their company to provide technology to support their mental health. They want tools like self-service access to health resources (36%), on-demand counseling services (35%), and chatbots to answer health-related questions (28%).

The pressure is on employers to step up

While there's no silver bullet that can solve the mental health crisis, the right technology can certainly make a difference. And workers worldwide are looking for their organizations to step up, with 76% believing their company should be doing more to protect their mental health.

This is a serious and urgent global crisis. Mental health needs to be at the top of every organization's agenda and the conversation needs to start now - because ultimately, we don't have an option to ignore it and there are now countless ways that technology can help.

To learn more about the global study, click here.

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