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Recap: Addressing Mental Health in the New Workplace

Jayme Mesecher
Director, HCM Product Marketing

Recently, Oracle hosted a virtual summit in North America, EMEA, and APAC focused on “Addressing Mental Health in the New Workplace.” Rocky Mitarai, Senior Director of Product Marketing, HCM, opened the session describing the current challenges organizations are facing today amidst the pandemic. While productivity may be increasing, employees are also facing burnout, which is affecting their mental health and wellness. Oracle and Workplace Intelligence recently conducted an "AI@Work" study, which found that 78% of people surveyed said that the events of this year have negatively affected their mental health—and that 82% said they would want robots to support their mental health at work. To dive further into the study, Rocky introduced Emily He, Senior Vice President of HCM Global Marketing, and Dan Schwabel, Manager Partner at Workplace Intelligence.  

The High Level

Dan outlined the study which was conducted in over 11 countries with over 12,000 individuals spanning employees, managers, and the C-suite. With the sudden shift to remote work, employees are no longer commuting and are now reallocating that time saved to working longer hours, leading to burnout. Emily emphasized that while mental health issues existed in the workplace prior to the pandemic, it’s now become a top issue that HR teams need to address. It is not only impacting employees' productivity in the workplace but also impacting their personal lives. Dan further emphasized that it’s not just employees suffering, but also leaders at the top explaining that “a healthier executive means a healthier workplace.” 

With these challenges in mind, a key question was raised: How can technology help address these issues? Both Emily and Dan shared survey results revealing that employees are expecting organizations to do more to address the mental health and well-being of the workforce, including more frequent corporate communications like town halls and Q&As and an expansion of employee assistance programs with telehealth services and childcare stipends.

Survey Surprises and Possibilities

As mentioned earlier, the study found that 68% of respondents would prefer to talk to a robot over their manager about mental health, and 82% believed robots would support mental health better than humans. Emily believes this is because robots, or AI, provide a “judgment-free zone” that is quick and easy to access. Dan chimed in as well, noting that it’s important that humans and robots work together to provide a scalable means to address solutions for mental health. 

That said, robots can go beyond understanding and diagnosing how you feel. Emily also mentioned that with Oracle Cloud HCM, you can train a Digital Assistant to point employees to the right resources, such as employee assistance programs. Another capability is Journeys, which can walk employees through a set of best practices, like establishing an ergonomic environment while working at home. With Connections, employees can feel more a part of their work community by sharing their photo, a video, skills, and career aspirations to connect with other colleagues across the globe. 

Product marketing director Jayme Mesecher recaps our recent mental health virtual summits held in North America, Europe, and Asia.

The Office of the Future via PwC

The next session was hosted by Vinod Bonthala, Partner for HR Transformation at PwC. Vinod discussed the key findings of the CHRO Insights survey and outlined challenges surrounding the “office of the future”, which he explains as having three complementary workplaces:

  • The first is working from a company office. You may have a dedicated space at a desk, or your office could have a “neighborhood concept” where you have a general assigned area versus a specific desk. The key in this scenario is to have upgraded technology so those working in the office can still connect to those working remotely, which Vinod anticipates will reduce work travel. 
  • The second workspace is a virtual office, where employees will utilize company devices. This is the segment that has become more proven in the light of the pandemic and companies have seen an increase in productivity while employees are working from home. 
  • The last workplace is working from a co-working site. This will be a great resource for employees working from home who need a more professional atmosphere when meeting with clients. Vinod anticipates a best of both models between remote work and co-working sites, where companies will not have to spend as much money maintaining a dedicated office. 

Next, Vinod outlined the areas where core people processes will need to be updated to reflect the requirements of a more virtual workforce. For example, recruiters can explore the possibility of hiring the best talent from anywhere, as long as they invest in virtual manager training and video interview tools. Another area he highlighted concerned culture and people engagement, where he stated that organizations will need to “work twice as hard to build a culture remotely,”—possible through community events, such as culture boot camp for new hires. 

Finally, the PwC CHRO Insights Survey addressed ongoing business barriers, asking “Which of the following pose the biggest challenges for your business when delivering on your company’s workforce priorities?” In the answers: 

  • 51% said employee anxiety and burnout
  • 47% said lack of tools to accelerate collaboration, creativity, and coaching
  • 41% said a weakened culture in a virtual world

Closing CHRO Conversations

The virtual summit closed with Cara Capretta, Oracle’s VP of HCM Transformation hosting a conversation between James Jones, VP of HR and Chief Ethics Officer at Emerson, and Joyce Westerdahl, EVP of Human Resources at Oracle. James and Joyce reviewed some of the challenges their companies have faced within the last six months. For Emerson, which James stated is an essential business, it was maintaining the spirit and culture of the company while providing pharmaceutical and ventilator products to support life-saving industries. Joyce echoed a similar culture challenge at Oracle, sharing that employees have experienced “Zoom fatigue” and challenges with constant meetings. She also recognized this was a difficult time for mothers who work full-time with children at home who need assistance with remote learning. 

Cara concluded by asking James what lessons they have learned from the pandemic impacting Emerson’s digital strategy. James stated that it has enhanced their focus on automation, explaining that the team has been “getting resources away from transactional work and [getting] them into the strategic side of what we need to be doing.”

If you missed the event, you can watch the recap here

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