The future of work will be influenced by the past. Last year’s virus invasion changed everything for the workforce. Seven in 10 employees say this has been the most stressful year of their working lives, according to a report from Workplace Intelligence and Oracle. The impact has been severe —job loss, pay cuts, and the folding up of many companies.
A big part of rebuilding lost confidence among employees will be prioritising mental health. But not every organisation has the bandwidth for such an undertaking. To deal with this challenge, companies are seeking out AI-powered therapy bots that provide employees with self-monitoring and self-care tools to better their mental health.
The idea is to create an ecosystem of support that bridges the full spectrum of needs. “Existing solutions focus either on wellness, where they often end up as an isolated product that does not integrate with any other service or on an illness through services like EAP, which deploy highly expensive and scarce networks of people,” says Jo Aggarwal, Founder and CEO, Wysa, an AI tool for mental health.
Employees seem to be loving it; 82 percent of them believe that AI is better than humans at providing support, according to a study undertaken by Workplace Intelligence.
There is also more openness about taking help from a bot, which till a few years ago seemed crazy. Komal Sachdewa vouches for this. She works at an MNC in Gurgaon that rolled out a ‘well-being hour’ for its employees. It helped control her mounting anxiety. She could now reach out to a therapy bot any time, even during working hours.
Her company tied up with an international AI-powered mental health chatbot. It offers guidance with the help of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) tools. There is a mood tracker too. Many youngsters have benefited from this, she says.
“These bots are easy to operate, ask the right questions, offer precise solutions, are friendly but not overly friendly, which helps. Whether it is interpersonal conflict, bullying, low motivation or discrimination at work, the bot is there to help,” says Sachdewa.
It is transformative, according to Rahul Malhotra, who works at a marketing agency in Mumbai. He has been using Wysa.
“There was a lowering of pay scales in the company, which hit me hard. Back home, my sister was diagnosed with cancer. It was too much and I couldn’t manage it but, at the same time, going out to get therapy was unsafe given Covid-19. That is when I found a cute friend in the yellow-footed AI penguin at Wysa,” says Malhotra.
The app also looks out for emergency signals based on keywords in the conversation. When it detects something a
larming, it suggests advanced support. Services include a bot and a library of 150+ digital self-help techniques, and human support. “The Wysa Workplace Wellness solution specifically combines outreach and mental health campaigns with access to AI-guided support on the web and in a custom app for employees. This embeds into existing company benefits such as the Employee Assistance Program or external behavioural health provider networks, that can be customised by geography or employee cohort. The solution also provides population-based analytics dashboards that can identify issues early and drive actionable insights,” says Aggarwal.
Benefits of a therapy bot
● Easily accessible
● Offers self-monitoring and self-help resources
● Some offer custom escalation pathways