Staying mindful to improve productivity and concentration Photo by Andrew H. Walker / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Keeping mindfulness and employee health at the forefront: app reviews

Figures available worldwide are painting a gloomy picture of people’s mental health and wellbeing during the current Coronavirus epidemic. Apart from worry and grief over the loss of, or potential loss of loved ones, the main effects are the feelings of loneliness and isolation that lockdown brings.

As businesses and organizations begin to act proactively to counteract their employees’ failing mental (and physical) health, at Tech Wire Asia, we are looking at different ways that technology can help support remote workers.

The poorly-fitting apps
Many pages of the technology press — Tech Wire Asia included — have been dedicated in recent months to examining the ways that collaboration and communication software is helping the remote worker and the businesses employing them. But in most cases, the applications that we all now use daily were conceived and written for only occasional use. Just a few short months ago, we called remote workers “road warriors,” individuals who worked from airport lounges, hotel rooms, and in the corridors outside conference halls.

Solutions like Webex, Zoom, Jitsi, and Teams were designed to connect working groups: a few remote workers, a body of specialists in one office with a meeting room full of others in another.

With a workforce that’s been forced to go remote, these tools simply aren’t making up the differences between working together in person, and working together remotely.

All the comms solutions lack the human touch: even video conferencing software tends to flatten out features and compress information so that facial micro-gestures are lost. Typically, too, much of a person’s body language is also missed out because of the position of the average webcam on a laptop or monitor.

The specialist applications

Both the Apple App Store and Google Play are full of apps that help users meditate, become more mindful, calm down, and concentrate. These activities are highly beneficial, but like collaborative and comms apps, they are not explicitly focused on helping people during their working day.

Embedding this type of positive, habitual reinforcement of awareness, stillness, and mindfulness into work-focused applications is not anything that we at Tech Wire Asia have seen previously (until now — see below).

Therefore as part of a new series on mental health in the APAC region during these times of COVID, we focus on ways that employees can boost their overall wellbeing while working from home.

The first app we are considering is LifeWorks, a platform that delivers a broad range of employee-focused wellbeing-focused training, activities, and media.

The levels of support and different content types are as varied or directed as required. That ranges from “standard” EAP (Employee Assistance Program) fare such as work-focused training and gamification of work success, right through to offering 24/7 access to counseling and support services, either “live” or as snackable clips.

Mindfulness and meditation guidance sits alongside physical wellbeing programs — on the latter score, the app integrates with employees’ Fitbits or smartwatches to track exercise and daily activity, if desired.

The appeal of LifeWorks is that all resources are available for the employee in complete confidence: as the employer, you receive no personalized information about who is accessing what. Employers do get analysis and figures regarding uptake and engagement, allowing leaders to build their teams better. What’s trending and proving popular will help decision-makers push their employees’ health and wellbeing successfully, with positive outcomes for all parties in the long-term.

LifeWorks can be used as an adjunct to existing HR solutions or as a standalone, wellness, and health-oriented app. It is uniquely positioned, we feel, between “traditional” HR technology and personal development apps.

You can read a deeper dive into the LifeWorks offering right here on this site.

The second app we are considering is “Smiling Mind,” created by a non-profit organization and entirely free. (Many mindfulness apps need users to either pay upfront or subscribe somehow.)

Smiling Mind focuses on the different areas in which people can gain significantly: in their sleep, developing mindful practices, in their relationships, and — especially relevant here — in the workplace. The latter area of focus has around 40 dedicated sessions, designed specifically to reduce stress and conflicts.

Most of the sessions range in length from just a few minutes (perfect for coffee breaks) to nearly an hour.

And for those of us whose attention might wander during Zoom meetings, there are dedicated sessions on tap where users are taught tactics to re-steer their minds back onto other peoples’ speech. In fact, the focus of mediation can actually be other people talking: perfect for those long sessions where it’s easy to let attention wander from critical information.

As a bonus, the app also has specialized programs designed for educators, children and teenagers, so those juggling homeschooling kids and working at home can help promote positivity for themselves and their charges.

Finally, as well as iOS and Android versions, Smiling Mind is also available on the web, so those stuck to their laptops for hours each day can intersperse spreadsheet sessions with a few minutes in which to develop a smiling mind of their own!