Why tech + empathy should be the CIO's new approach to employee health

CIOs ramped up initiatives this year to prioritize and support employees' mental health and well-being as social distancing and isolation due to the pandemic altered the traditional workplace, according to The Wall Street Journal.

"The new approach for CIOs must be technology plus empathy," Carol Juel, CIO of Synchrony Financial, told the Journal as part of the publication's annual end-of-year questionnaire for CIOs. Employees at the consumer financial services company have been offered virtual mental health counseling services and therapy as well as self-care tools like Talkspace.

The pandemic introduced new challenges for mental health due to social distancing, enforced isolation and new stresses tied to working from home while managing a personal life during a public health emergency. Psychologists say that being confined can take a psychological toll including depression and compulsive disorders, according to the Dec. 21 report.

Other organizations such as Ernst & Young have also ramped up mental health initiatives; between March and August, more than 15,000 U.S. employees at the financial consulting and strategy company participated in virtual counseling and mindfulness sessions to promote mental health and well-being.

Because of the emotional struggles with the pandemic, Mountain Inc. Global Chief Technology Officer Kimberly Anstett has held monthly meetings with her tech team to check in more often and ensure her employees feel emotionally supported.

"That gives us a common bond, a common element that we're focused on,” she said, adding that its important to have regular check ins about difficulties or else employees will burn out or leave the company to find support somewhere else.  

 

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