Thanks to technological advances in emotion recognition, augmented mental health systems that objectively monitor and improve mental health and wellbeing, represent the ultimate multi hit tool to maximize employee and organization productivity, generating substantial savings by targeting mental health, occupational stress, and burnout.
Reduced Productivity — THE Biggest Mental Health Drain on Revenue
The human and economic cost of mental illness and poor mental health is huge. By 2030, the global societal impact is expected to rise to $6 trillion.
Subclinical and clinical levels of work-related stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses incurs direct and indirect costs. Yet the latest research and statistic find that the costs incurred from impaired productivity and lost opportunities tend to generate the greatest losses:
1. direct costs (i.e., health care costs, disability payments, and provision of support services).
2. indirect costs (i.e., imposed on caregivers, family members, and communities).
3. opportunity costs of the output foregone (i.e., productivity costs, higher unemployment and sick days).
For governments and employers, research asserts that the increasingly high costs of mental illness, occupations stress, and burnout are predominantly due to productivity losses.
In retrospect, return-on-investment research shows that there are huge cost savings to be made from improving mental health in the workplace–largely due to productivity gains.
Mental Illness & Burnout = Absenteeism & Presenteeism = Cost & Productivity Losses
Recently, the first study examining the impact of depression on workplace productivity across a diverse set of countries — Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, South Africa, and the USA — revealed that the extortionate cost of depression-specific workplace productivity exists irrespective of a country’s economic development, national income, or culture.
In the United States, for example, approximately half of the overall cost of depression is attributable to the reduced productivity of workers. A report by the National Business Group on Health estimated that mental illness and substance abuse disorders cost U.S. employers $17 billion each year.
Ultimately, the majority of the costs for employers and governments are related to productivity losses from absenteeism and presenteeism, rather than the mental health treatment itself:
1) Absenteeism (i.e., productivity loss due to work absence) is higher in those with mental health issues or those suffering from occupational burnout. There are more workers absent from work because of stress and anxiety than because of physical illness or injury. Worldover, there are millions of working days lost as sick days per year. Measures that successfully improve mental health and reduce absenteeism have been demonstrated to save $100–1000’s per employee every year.
2) Presenteeism (i.e., productivity loss due to mental illness, occupational stress, and burnout while at work) represents a large slice of annual cost to employers. In the UK for example, over half of the £33–42 billion annual cost to UK employers comes from presenteeism, while remaining costs were related to absenteeism and staff turnover. In the US presenteeism is estimated to cost employers a total of 217 million days of lost work productivity– that is ~6000 years of productivity lost, per year!
Although research has identified that there are individual, workplace, and societal factors influencing whether presenteeism or absenteeism does the lion’s share of the productivity damage, the result is universal. Loss of individual productivity due to poor mental health snowballs into lost productivity for the whole organization in terms of time-management, service provision, sales, managing objectives, and ultimately revenue losses.
Plugging the Mental Health Drain on Employee Productivity with Augmented Mental Health Solutions
Augmented mental health systems that employ advanced, objective mental health monitoring with wearable biosensors are predicted to become standard issue organization-provided tools for improved mental health, productivity, and revenue.
The key concept behind augmented mental health systems centers around providing real-time, responsive, personalized, and comprehensive mental health care services by integrating objective emotion recognition and mental health monitoring with telehealth and mHealth services for real-time provision of coaching and interventions for mental and behavioral health.
As technological successors, wearable tech in augmented mental health applications for the workplace has great advantages over mobile-only or internet-based workplace mental health interventions that are already established as cost-effective means of improving workplace productivity in both mentally healthy and unhealthy workers.
Wearables, being more easily, continuously, and unobtrusively worn and used for real-time mental health monitoring, particularly in work environments where there may be mobile phone use limitations, means that augmented mental health systems and policies, have greater potential to reduce absenteeism and presenteeism and thereby increase productivity and savings.
Augmented Mental Health = Lower Absenteeism & Presenteeism = Cost & Productivity Gains
1) Preventing and reducing burnout and occupational stress
Burnout is the culmination of prolonged occupational stress related to physical, emotional and mental exhaustion at work. Classed as an occupational hazard, it is associated with both physical illness and mental problems, including cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal pain, depression and anxiety.
Research from multiple perspectives conclude that initiatives that reduce occupational stress offer the most potential to raise productivity in healthy workers, and even more so in employees suffering from mental health problems. While mobile health (mHealth) applications are trumping other modalities in managing workplace stress, app effectiveness and employee’s self-management of mental health, stress, and well-being can be taken to the next-level using wearables.
Recently, the Fit4Work system, an augmented mental health system in development as part of the European Commission’s Active and Assisted Living programme, was investigated. As a tool for health and social workers aged 55 and over, it is designed to reduce and manage physical and mental stress resulting from occupational stress in order to be healthy and maintain good workplace productivity. Using commercially available smart devices and machine-learning models, initial yet ongoing research shows it successfully monitors physical, mental, and environmental stress at the workplace.
2) Improved mental health and wellbeing, reduced absenteeism and presenteeism
Mentally healthier workers means greater productivity and revenue gains. A meta-analysis of 21 randomized controlled trials assessing digital occupational mental health interventions (predominantly web-based) confirmed that they consistently improve both psychological well-being and work effectiveness.
Use of mHealth apps by employees has been shown to significantly reduce measures of perceived stress, depression, anxiety, emotional exhaustion, sleeping problems, worrying, mental health-related quality of life, psychological detachment, emotion regulation skills, as well as productivity losses from absenteeism, disability, and on the job presenteeism.
Importantly, clinically relevant levels of stress reduction and unrivaled early intervention from real-time stress monitoring are now being demonstrated using next-gen augmented mental health systems, e.g. in ex-military undergoing CBT therapy. This means that even workers experiencing mental health issues, who are most at risk of harm from occupational stress, can be protected and treated with sensor-based augmented mental health systems, thereby improving mental health and productivity in the workplace.
Meanwhile, cutting-edge augmented mental health systems, like Feel the world’s first emotion sensor and mental health advisor, go beyond stress detection to more accurately interpret the whole spectrum of human emotion, allowing for even more advanced mental health analysis and more timely, personalized interventions than previously possible.
4) Detecting workplace stressors for data-informed evolution of policies and practices
There is an urgent need to redesign employment policies and employer practices to support the inclusion, care, and productivity of those experiencing burnout and mental health problems. Tailoring these changes to the organization and its employees is only truly realizable with real-time mental health monitoring to measure and identify workplace factors and scenarios influencing occupational stress, mental health, and well-being using objective data.
5) Increased employee support and reduced stigma
Research is demonstrating that presenteeism rates vary according to country characteristics, and that presenteeism tends to be the main drain on revenue in countries with higher rates of depression, like the US and UK. The beauty of mHealth applications is that they foster sociocultural and workplace attitude that have been shown to promote acceptance and openness about mental health problems, a method demonstrated to improve employee productivity for those in poor mental health.
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