How digital technology is making employees happier, healthier and more productive

There are many things that are critical in the daily running of a company. Business owners not only need to have the right funding and support networks in place to accelerate growth, but they also need the talent around them to make things possible.

Going it alone may be easier in the early days, but as a company grows and picks up new customers, the need to bring onboard new employees increases. But humans aren't robots and there are limitations when it comes to mental and physical health.

If you happen to run your own firm and your staff aren't feeling happy in the workplace, or if they're going through personal health struggles, then the chances are they won't be as productive as usual. As an employer, you're expected to ensure they have time to recover, although this can have a detrimental impact on everyday operations if you don't have backup resources.

But is there anything you can do to ensure that employees are healthier in the first place? Some companies are turning to technology to get answers. From apps to analytics, technology has the ability to make staff members happier and healthier, which can result in a more productive, agile workforce.

The rise of health software

Employees taking a day off from work due to illness can have a disruptive effect on daily business operations. To combat this, some businesses are starting to adopt a more proactive, digital approach to employee wellbeing.

In particular, organisations are turning to software such as that created by digital agency Transform, which has built up a wealth of experience in health tech. The company worked with Public Health England to create an app called One You, which helps people stay on top of their health. It focuses on issues such as smoking, drinking, stress and sleep deprivation.

Ian Pocock, director of health at Transform, has built a well-rounded career in health tech and believes healthcare is on the brink of a new change, with digital as the catalyst. For example, employers can leverage mobile and computer apps to monitor the health of staff, he says, and ensure they get the right treatment.

"The potential for digital apps to support, monitor and drive behaviour change in health is huge. The economic cost of poor physical and mental health in the UK is estimated to be between 70 billion to 100 billion, while sick pay alone costs businesses as much as 9 billion a year," says Pocock.

"The Labour Force Survey tells us that stress accounted for 37% of all work-related ill health cases and 45% of all working days lost in 2015/16. Mobile technology in particular can help us tackle this. It's integral to our lives today, which means we have a greater chance to connect with people about their health.

"A great example is the Lief Therapeutics app. It works by monitoring your heartrate and breathing through a 'smart patch' and uses this information to train your body to fight stress as it's happening," says Pocock, also pointing to meditation app Headspace, which he says has been proven to have a huge impact on stress levels by helping users to sleep better and worry less".

Harnessing smart analytics

Smart analytics may be making waves in areas such as finance and retail, but it also offers a beacon of hope when it comes to health in the workplace. Adam Hale, CEO of human resource software provider Fairsail, explains that health tech has often been limited to companies with substantial financial resources. However, things are beginning to change.

By harnessing the power of big data and smart analytics, employers can identify the health needs of their employees and put the right infrastructure in place so they're always productive. "Smart analytics have transformed business disciplines from marketing to finance. But until recently, the ability to capture and analyse a wide range of people data has been the domain of deep-pocketed technology pioneers like Google," he tells IT Pro.

"Now, with the emergence of people science, these possibilities are finally opening up to the small-to-mid market players too. HR is all about attracting and retaining top calibre people, and then empowering them to be able to do their best work, so they can be highly productive. People science is the new enabler and is incredibly powerful.

"People analytics can be used to predict which of your top performers are most likely to leave, so you can take preventative action. Ultimately, good data and actionable insights gained through the expertise of people scientists can improve our understanding of the workforce and help improve engagement and grow productivity by creating better experiences for them."

Treatment in your pocket

Neurological conditions can often remain below the radar and often they're caused by stressful and demanding experiences in the workplace. Remente, a mental health and wellbeing app, is on a mission to change this. Using it, you can take part on courses and set goals to relieve anxiety, get more sleep and feel more fulfilled.

David Brudo, founder of the company, says more companies are beginning to show an interest in the health of their employees. "Gone are the days when offering free yoga sessions counted as being concerned with employee health. Over the last few years, we have seen that organisations that take a real interest in the health of their workforces and appreciate that digital is the way forward are far more likely to succeed," he tells us.

He explains that his own staff have been using the app to improve their health and remain productive on a daily basis. "It's not all about physical health either. At my own company Remente, we have worked with management teams so that staff can use our app to better understand their own mental wellbeing. This can vary from keeping composed and relaxed in high-stress situations, to being more aware of goal-setting and how to keep organised while at work," he continues.

"Having a tool in your pocket to do this makes it all far more affordable and allows us to understand mental health far better. The companies that use our app have seen an increase in productivity in their workforce, as well as a surge in morale. Staff like to know their employers care, and the incorporation of digital health platforms into day-to-day working life is a strong indicator of a compassionate company," Brudo concludes.

Main image credit: Bigstock

Nicholas Fearn is a freelance technology journalist and copywriter from the Welsh valleys. His work has appeared in publications such as the FT, the Independent, the Daily Telegraph, the Next Web, T3, Android Central, Computer Weekly, and many others. He also happens to be a diehard Mariah Carey fan. You can follow Nicholas on Twitter.