Advances in technology may be making it harder for employees to be resilient at work

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LAS VEGAS — Technology is a double-edged sword. Employers agree it can help streamline tedious office tasks, but often at the cost of workers’ mental health.

That was one of the takeaways during a benefits panel held Tuesday at the 2019 HLTH Conference in Las Vegas. During this session professionals from the legal and banking industries discussed why it’s imperative employers include mental health in their benefits package.

“Five years ago, I was on a management call that informed us our firm was experiencing severe anger management issues,” said Mark Coffin, partner and benefit committee chair at Seyfarth Shaw, a Chicago-based law firm. “I said, ‘That’s funny, I was just thinking about throwing my computer out the window for being slow.’ That got me wondering — with all our technology, why is it getting harder, and not easier, to be resilient at work?”

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Coffin and his colleagues decided to take a proactive approach and formed a committee responsible for finding and implementing mental health programs at the office. Not long after that conversation, Coffin said the American Bar Association released a study that said attorneys were twice as likely as other employees to suffer from depression and other mental health issues. Coffin and his committee used these findings to push for more comprehensive EAP mental health offerings, which included access to counselors in-person and through telemedicine.

“Technology is actually making our jobs more demanding,” Coffin said. “We decided to be intentional about our culture and focus on providing resources to build resilience.”

Remote work also became part of Seyfarth Shaw’s arsenal against mental illness.

“We’ve had young moms who are very high-performing employees,” Coffin said. “Making work more fluid so they can also meet their demands out of the office has been so helpful for engaging these employees.”

See also: Why mental health in the workplace matters — and what you can do about it

Niko Triantafillou, senior vice president of global benefits at Citi, said the financial services company uses technology to tackle mental health in the workplace. Citi’s programs include access to counselors through telemedicine and texting platforms. They also have partnerships with clinics to appeal to employees who don’t engage with telemedicine.

“We wanted to address employees where they are, and provide easy access to care,” he said.

Triantafillou said Citi’s U.S. mental health programs took inspiration from company leaders in the United Kingdom, who hosted an internal event where senior executives talked about their own struggles with mental health at work.

“The purpose was to normalize mental health benefits and remove the stigma for receiving care,” Triantafillou said. “Seeing these high-performing individuals get candid about their internal struggles sends employees the message that they too can be successful while struggling with mental health.”

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