While technology will never solve these issues, there are some interesting ways to leverage your HR Tech stack to understand where mental health issues may be arising, and provide support to employees.
Employee assistance programs (EAPs) have been around for quite some time, and have mostly been a check the box type of offering without much data around how effective they were, nor how employees were actually using them.
However, there is a new generation of EAPs that is helping re-define employee mental health.
The new generation of EAPs have consumer focused experiences that are delivered over mobile first technology. They allow employees to take self directed steps towards wellness - meditations, exercises, specific advice (sleeping, alcohol, relationships).
They also facilitate frictionless interactions with therapists and clinicians who can deal with more acute and complicated situations. These happen over text, video, or in person depending on the need.
While still relatively new, this evolution in EAPs has been insanely popular with several of these companies becoming unicorns over the past year due to widespread adoption by companies who value the mental health or their employees.
People analytics generally has so many different use cases, and mental health may be one of the most interesting. The one downside is that to effectively execute, you will most likely need a people analyst who can aggregate and analyze the data.
One company we spoke to utilized organizational network analysis (ONA) to figure out the path that someone takes when they are dealing with acute mental health issues.
The signals in this specific case were an increase in absenteeism, 1:1's with a few key individuals (out of a company of thousands) who were trusted confidants in the company, and dramatic changes in work output.
This company in particular had a large population that was susceptible to mental health problems due to the nature of the work.
Monitoring these signals allowed them to get in front of potential issues quickly, and help someone who may not even know they are on a path towards needed more serious interventions.
It also allowed them to study the confidants to understand what made them effective, and train anyone who was likely to encounter someone reaching out about mental health issues.
However, it can be tricky to monitor these signals without abusing them. A big brother ethos will destroy these efforts, and a company culture. So, be extremely careful about who has access to this sort of data and how it is used.
A great way to monitor employee health on a general level is through best in class employee engagement solution. Pulse surveys, in depth quarterly/annual surveys, and employee data captured through OKRs will enable the People team to keep an eye on how various groups are doing.
Again, it's important to take the mentality of helping here versus wanting to get rid of someone who exhibits struggles with mental health. There are legal and moral reasons to take this stance.
More importantly, you can be assured that the performance of an organization that has a helping mentality will be much higher. Employees feel cared for, are cared for, and the culture of your organization is all the stronger for it. Employee mental health has become a hot topic in recent years, especially during COVID where many of us struggled to deal with the stresses (see stats on workplace stress) of a pandemic, working from home, uncertain careers, etc.