The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the mental health of people over the world, and the majority of people think technology can help to address this important issue.

According to a survey of more than 12,000 employees, managers, human resources leaders and C-level executives in 11 countries around the world, conducted by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence, 2020 has taken a significant toll on the mental health of these workers.

The events of this year have had a negative impact on the mental health of 78 percent of those surveyed in the global workforce, with 85 per cent saying this has negatively impacted their home life.

There is also a growing belief that companies themselves should be doing more to support the mental health of their employees, with 76 per cent of those surveyed saying their employers should lift their game.

Workplace Intelligence managing partner Dan Schawbel said the impact of COVID-19 and workers across the world having to work from home has meant there is little separation between work and private life.

“With new remote work expectations and blurred lines between personal and professional lives, the toll of COVID-19 on our mental health is significant – and it’s something that workers across every industry and country are dealing with,” Schawbel said.

“The pandemic has put mental health front and centre - it’s the biggest workforce issue of our time and will be for the next decade. The results of our study show just how widespread this issue has become, and why now is the time for organisations to start talking about it and exploring new options.”

More than 80 per cent of the global workforce said that technology such as artificial intelligence can support their mental health better than humans in some ways, especially through automation and not having to disclose issues to other people.

Only 18 per cent of those surveyed for the study said they would prefer humans over robots to support mental health, with 34 per cent saying technology provides a judgement-free zone, and a third saying robots are an unbiased outlet to share problems and can provide quick answers to health-related questions.

Mental health is a significant issue for workplaces and individuals, and technology should play a role in helping to improve it, Oracle Cloud HCM senior vice-president Emily He said.

“With the global pandemic, mental health has become not only a broader societal issue, but a top workplace challenge,” he said. “It has a profound impact on individual performance, team effectiveness and organisational productivity.

“Now more than ever, it’s a conversation that needs to be had and employees are looking to employers to step up and provide solutions. There is a lot that can be done to support the mental health of the global workforce and there are so many ways that technology like AI can help.

“But first, organisations need to add mental health to their agenda. If we can get these conversations started – both at an HR and executive level – we can begin to make some change. And the time is now.”

The study found 80 per cent of people are open to having a robot as a therapist or counsellor and three-quarters of respondents said artificial intelligence has already helped improve their mental health at work. This is through providing information needed to do their work, automating tasks and decreasing workload and reducing stress.

A separate survey of 4,000 people conducted by recruiters Hays found that just 42 per cent of the workforce in Australia rate their current mental health and wellbeing as “positive”, down from 63 percent before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study also found that more than 70 per cent of employers said mental health and wellbeing is set to become even more of a priority in their organisations over the next six months.