Behavioral analytics and “smartphone psychiatry” could help employers identify worker burnout, stress, depression.
Watching for red flags to help detect employee burnout can be challenging. Now there is technology that can help do some of the work for you. Behavioral analytics, a subfield of people analytics, is being used by some companies to help identify signs of burnout, as well as to promote optimal health and wellbeing. Generally, this involves a simple wristband or electronic badge that can measure vital signs and detect speech pattern or sleep quality changes. Employers can use the data from these measurements to identify instances where employees are showing signs of being overworked or stressed out.
Many people already use similar devices to measure their own pulse, steps, heart rate, and other personal metrics related to their activity and fitness levels. However, this information generally is for their personal use and not shared with their managers or others.
Elsewhere, employers may eventually be able to collect some data from employees’ smartphone usage that can highlight signs of stress. In the new field of “smartphone psychiatry,” some mental health professionals say, for example, that how someone uses his or her smartphone (such as word choice or typing speed) can identify signs of stress and depression. Currently, researchers are testing a number of experimental apps using artificial intelligence to predict episodes of depression or possible self-harm.
According to one source, 70% of workers predict surveillance will be common in the future, but 70% think companies should be required to consult them before employing monitoring tools. Employers using smartphones to track mental health clearly will require informed consent to install the app. At the same time, it will be essential to ensure privacy and security related to these devices and the data they collect and transmit.
While fears about “Big Brother” watching them have many people skeptical about employee monitoring, workers are more likely to accept health monitoring devices and tools if the company can find a way to ensure them that data will be used specifically to help and protect employees, not punish or penalize them in any way.