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EHS Digital Technology Poised To Tackle Workplace Anxiety And Depression

Firms increasingly are focusing on the importance of sound mental health in the workplace. It is one more way of ensuring the wellbeing of one of the most important assets to a business: the employee. According to HSE’s Summary of Statistics for Great Britain 2019, there were 600,000 new or long-standing cases of work-related stress, depression and anxiety during the period 2018-2019. Additionally, HSE estimates that 12.8 million working days were lost as a result of these cases, along with the United Kingdom’s Department of Health and Social Care estimating an associated cost of £105.2 billion per annum to the British economy.

Industry stakeholders increasingly are exploring digital technology to address the issue of workplace anxiety and depression. For example, the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity, construction software firm ‘COINS’ and the industry-led initiative called ‘Building Mental Health’ collaborated on the issue. They developed a free mental health app that provides vital advice, information and guidance on topics such as anxiety, depression, anger and suicidal thoughts. Headspace, an online healthcare company specialising in mindfulness, offers Headspace For Work to deploy its app among its expanding B2B market segment and Headspace Health, through which the firm is integrating mindfulness into healthcare by working with employers and healthcare providers. Headspace announced a series C round of fundraising on February 12th, 2020, raising $93m to accelerate its evolution to a global happiness platform. Adding impetus to the case, the American Psychological Association posits that wearable technology can gather information on essential biomarkers for anxiety and depression and may even one day enable direct intervention. Many other organisations are taking a similar position, although data privacy is a big concern for potential adopters.

While a plethora of market-ready consumer and specialist wearable technology can collect data for fatigue monitoring, they also can aid in measuring biological metrics associated with anxiety and depression. However, these devices do not send data directly to consented professionals who can provide expert advice, and here lies the crux of the issue: access to data and privacy. As one potential solution to this challenge, the AffecTech Project—which is a consortium of experts, universities, firms and the British National Health Service—is exploring the use of smartwatches, mobile phones, other wearables such as virtual reality (VR) devices, and artificial intelligence to offer more tailored advice on dealing with mental health issues in the workplace and in general. The creatively misspelt Happinss is a vendor offering a Happinss for Enterprise solution, which leverages wearables data to inform stress management. The system also combines positive stimulus from nature, music therapy and mindfulness and allows the user to visualise and track progress.

The case for leveraging wearables to tackle mental health issues is undoubtedly a strong one, with wearable technology shaping up to be a valuable tool in this regard. The market is showing that appetites are high for industrial wearable technologies covering various use cases. Sixty-four per cent of respondents to the most recent Verdantix global survey of senior EHS decision-makers indicated that they would like to apply wearables to vital sign monitoring (see Global Corporate Survey 2019: EHS Budgets, Priorities & Tech Preferences). With this in mind, as the technology proliferates, so will the use cases. Hence, it is no surprise that firms already are interested in applying wearables to use cases covering mental health. However, data privacy concerns and mental health stigma still present considerable barriers to expanded deployment. Perhaps for now, the approach taken by firms such as Headspace may offer light respite to workers by offering positive stimulus while also being cautious in their handling of user data.

EHS EHS Digital Technology Poised To Tackle Workplace Anxiety And Depression Verdantix Blog