Given the pressures of the contemporary workplace, it should hardly be surprising that many view their working environment as the single largest contributing factor to their mental health issues.
The impact of those stresses are much bigger than we might imagine too. According to one UK study, as many as three in four workers have experienced symptoms of poor mental health.
Of course, poor mental health in the workplace doesn’t just affect workers. It also comes at a massive cost to employers. In South Africa, for instance, untreated mental illness costs the economy billions of Rands in absenteeism.
While correcting that kind of situation isn’t simple (in some cases, it might require a fundamental change in the way companies do business), a raft of new technologies are emerging that could go a long way to improving mental wellbeing in the workplace.
Some would have to be implemented by the companies themselves, while others allow employees to take better control of their own mental health.
Here are a few of them:
Smart office design reduces stress
If there’s one thing we can be certain of, it’s that humans didn’t evolve to sit in offices all day. We have different needs depending on what we’re working on, how we’re feeling, and even what time of day it is. Despite that, the average worker inevitably finds themselves tethered to a desk that looks exactly the same as everyone else’s. Add to that the fact that more recent developments, such as the open plan office have proven distracting, noisy, irritating, and erosive to workers’ sense of “psychological privacy,” and it’s easy to see why the office might not be especially great for your mental health.
Mercifully, a few leading companies have realised that a well-planned office can be beneficial to employee wellbeing.
Now, at this stage it’s important to note that we’re not talking about gimmicky additions to the office, such as ball pits, firefighter poles, and chocolate fountains. As it turns out, that kind of stuff makes very little difference.
Instead, we’re talking about adaptive offices, where wireless technologies mean people can move their desks according to need, new developments in acoustic design mean even open plan offices can be quiet, and smart lighting can increase focus and reduce stress.
Of course, unless you’re building an entirely new office, it’s difficult to implement these technologies all at once. Still, even just a few of them could go a long way to improving your employees’ mental health.
Apps can help us treat ourselves
Some people don’t have the luxury of working at a company that cares about their mental wellbeing and so are forced to take matters into their own hands.
Fortunately for them, there are a variety of apps out there that can help with managing mental wellness.
These apps can help people monitor anxiety and depression and figure out the triggers, provide guidance for meditation and anxiety, and give people access to supportive communities.
Wearables that detect we’re in trouble before we do
When it comes to mental health, our bodies often send subtle signals that our minds don’t always pick up on. Thing is, by the time we’ve realised that something is wrong, the anxiety and stress may have become overwhelming.
An answer to that might lie in wearable technology. The Spire, for instance, is a breath and activity tracker that helps you understand stress triggers, sends instant notifications and stress remedies to your phones, and gives you breathing exercises to lower breath-rate and stress levels.
Another wearable device that tracks mental health is the ZENTA. In addition to monitoring your physical health like other wearables, but also things like perspiration, and respiration, and cross references this with other data from your smartphone in order to understand cause and effect.
Given that companies are increasingly using wearables in their wellness programmes, does it not also make sense to include ones that can also monitor mental health.
If you really want to make it worthwhile, you could bring in an expert who can help people analyse their data (something they would have to volunteer for, of course).
Neurostimulators can treat an array of issues
There are an array of mental health treatments out there, ranging from therapy to medication, and breathing exercises. One of the less well-known, but more promising, is neurostimulation, which works by increasing the production of serotonin and dopamine.
In the past, you might have had to go into a clinic to get this treatment, but companies like Fisher Wallace are making it easier to access Neurostimulation on the fly.
Fisher Wallace’s neurostimulator takes the form of a comfortable headband that you can use while relaxing at home.
At present, you need authorisation from a doctor or medical provider to get your hands on a neurostimulator, but it’s not too difficult to imagine these kinds of devices appearing in offices in the near future. How beneficial would they be, in a dedicated hospital relaxation room, for instance?
The thing about tech
While all of these technologies are undoubtedly important, it’s worth remembering that taking care of mental healthcare in the workplace is about culture. If a company isn’t supportive and committed to creating a positive working environment, then all the technology in the world won’t make an ounce of difference.