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  • International Workplace
  • 14 October 2020
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Mental health: the “biggest workforce issue of our time”

A new study by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence of more than 12,000 employees, managers, HR leaders, and C-level executives across 11 countries has found that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased workplace stress, anxiety, and burnout for people all around the world, and they prefer robots instead of other people to help.

Says Dan Schawbel, Managing Partner, Workplace Intelligence:

“With new remote work expectations and blurred lines between personal and professional lives, the toll of COVID-19 on our mental health is significant – and it’s something that workers across every industry and country are dealing with. The pandemic has put mental health front and centre – it’s the biggest workforce issue of our time and will be for the next decade.”

People want more from technology than collaboration tools and instead want technology to support their mental health. Findings of the study include:

  • Only 18% of people would prefer humans over robots to support their mental health as they believe robots provide a judgement-free zone (34%), an unbiased outlet to share problems (30%), and quick answers to health-related questions (29%).
  • 68% of people would prefer to talk to a robot over their manager about stress and anxiety at work and 80% of people are open to having a robot as a therapist or counselor.
  • 75% say AI has helped their mental health at work. The top benefits noted were providing the information needed to do their job more effectively (31%), automating tasks and decreasing workload to prevent burnout (27%), and reducing stress by helping to prioritise tasks (27%).
  • AI has also helped the majority (51%) of workers shorten their work week and allowed them to take longer vacations (51%). Over half of respondents say AI technology increases employee productivity (63%), improves job satisfaction (54%), and improves overall wellbeing (52%).

However, the study shows employees are still looking for their organisations to provide more mental health support, whether that be via technology or in person:

  • 76% of people believe their company should be doing more to protect the mental health of their workforce. 51% noted their companies have added mental health services or support as a result of COVID-19.
  • 83% of the global workforce would like their company to provide technology to support their mental health, including self-service access to health resources (36%), on-demand counseling services (35%), proactive health monitoring tools (35%), access to wellness or meditation apps (35 percent), and chatbots to answer health-related questions (28%).
  • 84% of workers have faced challenges while working remotely, with the biggest factors being no distinction between personal and professional lives (41%) and dealing with increased mental health challenges like stress and anxiety (33%).
  • 42% of people said workplace stress, anxiety, or depression causes their productivity to plummet and 40% said it leads to an increase in poor decision making. 85% said work-related stress, anxiety, and depression affects their home life.

Says Emily He, Senior Vice President, Oracle Cloud HCM:

“With the global pandemic, mental health has become not only a broader societal issue, but a top workplace challenge. It has profound impact on individual performance, team effectiveness and organisational productivity. Now more than ever, it’s a conversation that needs to be had and employees are looking to employers to step up and provide solutions. There is a lot that can be done to support the mental health of the global workforce and there are so many ways that technology like AI can help. But first, organisations need to add mental health to their agenda. If we can get these conversations started – both at an HR and an executive level – we can begin to make some change.”