Distance has created new forms of wellbeing support – and we need to embrace them

By Jane Christopher, - Employee experience

This blog is co-authored by Citrix’s Jane Christopher and Fujitsu’s Sarah-Jane Littleford.

Travel restrictions and lockdowns may have limited the physical proximity between employers and employees, but in many ways, they have been brought closer together than ever before. Because, while the shift to remote has been a challenge for HR, it’s presented an opportunity for businesses to connect with their employees in fresh, innovative, and personal ways.

Fujitsu and Citrix are just two of the many organisations around the world that had to sit down at the start of the pandemic and decide what HR looks like in a workplace that needed to span across kitchen tables, bedroom desks, and living room sofas. We both decided it was one that achieved in three overarching areas; creating a supportive culture, using technology as a tool for wellbeing, and curating a space to succeed.

We explain in length all the practical initiatives we implemented around these areas in our Wellbeing eBook. But here we’re going to distil how technology (something so methodical and logical) can help support mental health and wellbeing (something that can be so nuanced, illogically varied, and fluid).


Enabling the right support

Tech can sometimes be misinterpreted as the solution to a problem, when in reality it’s often the enabler of the solution. When it comes to supporting wellbeing in the remote workplace technology is exactly this. It’s a method of communicating that support and advice to employees as and when they need it. This has positively pushed HR leaders beyond the traditional confines of face-to-face conversations hosted in a meeting room, which can make some employees feel like they’re in a disciplinary meeting as opposed to a beneficial conversation.

Now with multiple methods of digital communication, from apps and chatbots, to video calls and VR, workforces can be interacted with in ways that best suit their needs. Sometimes an employee might need that personal, empathetic approach through a one-to-one video call. But for employees who feel fearful of talking to a HR leader, or feel an official meeting is too serious a step for how they’re feeling, technology can be a great asset in removing the human and just providing the advice.

Employee assistance platforms with resources, chatbots, and mood tracking apps like Fujitsu’s Buddy Connect can all be ways of delivering support from HR leaders without them needing to be directly involved. As a result, we’ve seen a huge uptake in staff anonymously accessing wellbeing resources. Of course, the surge of disruptions happening in employees’ lives will have contributed to this increase, but the fact all these people feel comfortable reaching out to us in some way, shows how important it is to have multiple forms of wellbeing support.


A help not a hindrance

Supporting wellbeing in the workplace can sometimes become very preoccupied with what to do once an employee’s mental health has deteriorated. However, alleviating the stress that contributes to a decline in wellbeing in work and home life is also vitally important.

As the remote workplace thrusted upon us all by the pandemic has caused an irreversible reliance on technology, we must all make sure that this isn’t causing additional strain. When employees already have so much disruption to deal with, working in a digital workplace that isn’t integrated properly, or requires employees to do tasks they shouldn’t be doing, will only exacerbate the need for greater support further down the line.

Instead, technology needs to be used as a tool to take away unnecessary stress in the remote working environment. Therefore, collaboration between IT and HR in order to implement an intuitive and connected digital workplace will continue to be a key part of wellbeing.

Additionally, artificial intelligence and automation may be able to carry out simple tasks like data input or form filling. This gives employees back some time to focus on the tasks that would really benefit from their expertise, and also encourages them to not work overtime to complete tasks. Remember the lines between work and home are so blurred at the moment, it’s really important that employers do everything they can to enable employees to easily switch off at the end of the day.


What we’ve learned about wellbeing

The past year has been tough on everyone, and if anything it’s highlighted the variance in how our lives are affected, and the diversity in how we react to these changes. Some employees have been suffering with grief, anxiety, stress, and depression. Some have felt fine, and in some cases even better than they felt pre-pandemic.

Others are dealing with the overwhelming feeling of home-schooling or caring for relatives, while others are trying to organise their work schedule around their partner’s key worker schedule. The upshot is everyone’s situation is entirely different, which means what they need from their employer to support their wellbeing is also entirely different.

Traditional mental wellbeing support may have been sufficient prior to COVID-19, but it isn’t realistic for HR leaders to single-handedly deliver personalised levels of care at the volumes we’re currently seeing now. This is why we’re seeing so much opportunity in technology being used by HR leaders. They can reach out to employees through numerous routes, which suits individual needs, but also scales support.

The pandemic won’t remain a disruption for eternity, but right now we believe it’s technology that is enabling us to help our employees see a happier and less stressful future ahead. This can only be an asset for HR teams and workforces in the years to come.

If you’d like to read more about the wellbeing initiatives we’ve put in place, how we did it, and how Fujitsu and Citrix may be able to help your HR leaders too, see our Wellbeing eBook.

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