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Can UCC Tools Quantify Employee Wellness?

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Image: Andrii Kucher - Alamy Stock Photo
There's been an increase in tech product offerings that track employee performance in everything from customer interactions to user experience and employee productivity to employee wellness. These platforms typically collect data based on the employee use patterns generated through work with other tools like customer service platforms, calendaring programs, email, plus self-reported data.
With the workplace shifts that the pandemic helped accelerate, employee experience tools are now part of many companies' planned tech spending this year and beyond. And those tools often assess employee wellness as an indicator of overall workplace functionality.
In the case of tools like Microsoft Viva, built-in breaks, mindfulness exercises, and quiet hours are part and parcel of improving employee well-being. This all helps to lend a hand at making something that we once saw as taboo turn into an industry of software looking to enhance employee mental health and overall workplace experience/performance.
But can any unified communications tool actually boost employee wellness? Is it even necessary? After all, long before these tools came into existence, there was a minimal (at best) focus on employee wellness. And do employees really need technology to tell them how they're doing?
Is There Really a Problem?
Here's a little perspective on how well-being can impact employee performance.
According to Deloitte's Women @ Work 2022: A Global Outlook study, women are some of the most impacted by ‘proximity bias, which means; they feel that they would be perceived as better workers if they were closer to management/leadership. This is, according to Michele Parmelee, Global Deputy CEO, Chief People, and Purpose Officer, Deloitte, who sat down with WorkSpace Connect for an interview in June.
And all this can impact mental health, according to (the same) Deloitte study, which found that: Nearly 60% of women who work in hybrid environments feel excluded from important meetings. Almost half of those respondents said they did not have enough exposure to those who could help further their careers.
So, why should employers care that their employees are mentally sound, happy, and feeling good in the workplace? Working from home seems to be a significant factor.
That is, according to a Gallup Poll, which examined what 100,000 U.S. workers thought about working from home over going to a traditional office daily.
It turns out; Millennials are least likely to say that they are 'thriving now,' and 54% of remote workers agreed, while 47% of office workers agreed with the statement.
That spans the spectrum of those in the workplace, including executives who reported 20% worse work-life balance, with 40% stating they have more work-related stress and anxiety, according to Future Forum Pulse Report Fall 2022. The report found that, overall, folks feel burnt out.
A Shift in the Workplace Conversation
With a shift in the work conversation’s emphasis, employee happiness and wellness eventually became another essential focus of that chat, with global tech firms, especially tech-savvy HR leaders, getting the hint- employees will leave if they are unhappy.
A study commissioned by Slack and conducted by Future Forum found that a growing number of employees in the U.S., that's 60% - say they are willing to look for a new job if they are unhappy. That could explain higher than usual churn rates we have seen during the pandemic, which according to McKinsey Quarterly:
“The sheer volume of churn in the labor market and at organizations means that a massive portion of the workforce is and will remain new. For companies, this means that the culture passed on through traditions and behavioral norms will mean much less unless organizations make the relevance of that culture clear to new joiners from the start.”
With the ability to measure things like time spent in meetings throughout the day — usually via APIs and integrations like Outlook - unified communications technology does attempt to measure employee wellness by collecting data.
Placing that into context and attempting to understand the practicality means that: every activity on a call or back-to-back meeting, and calendar integration, can drive insights for employee mental health and make recommendations to take a break, for instance, or might even recommend going for a walk depending on the system.
Workplace gaming even plays a crucial role in keeping some employees sane; in many instances.
Beyond Employee Wellness Tracking: Action is Vital
Software solutions like Sprout, Unmind, and Wellable attempt to pull off the feat of measuring employee wellness by offering employee wellness content via apps/other channels. Other, more UCC-centric tools like Webex do it more discreetly; while still making employees aware data are being collected for their benefit.
These can generate dashboards displaying individual user metrics on various workplace tasks and suggesting ways to maintain or improve specific workplace metrics, including those that promote better workplace mental health.
For example, Microsoft Viva will scan individual user schedules to see when they can block out chunks of "focus time," then put that time on Outlook calendars so people in the focus time block can work without being interrupted by Teams messages. On a managerial level, Viva also collates team information and extrapolates trends among the members, such as increases or decreases in meeting time.
Employee intervention is, therefore, possible with such insights.
Another reality is that such a massive shift in how folks work, paired with the pandemic, could tie to what some mental health professionals call a looming mental health crisis. And American workers are beginning to seek more mental health benefits, a 2022 Blueboard report found.
In the end, management must continue to listen to what the wellness tools are telling them and respond to the data in a way that reverses dangerous trends.