The Digital Mental Health Revolution: Why employee wellbeing and engagement should be top of your list for 2017.

 

‘Wellbeing’ is a buzzword that was hugely popular in 2016, and to be truly competitive in 2017, organisations need to look at employee wellbeing, engagement, and benefits as the way to attract and retain top talent.

 

The dictionary definition of wellbeing is ‘the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy’, but my feeling is that to truly have a positive sense of wellbeing, all three need to be considered. It’s hard enough to keep your whole family comfortable, healthy and happy in one go, so how is an organisation supposed to manage that for their whole workforce?

 

The most recent statistics show a much clearer picture of the scale of the problem, and a full infographic from the CIPD can be seen here [https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/employee-outlook-infographic-mental-health-workplace-739x1032_tcm18-10551.jpg]. Of those surveyed, 31% of the workforce said they have experienced a mental health problem while in employment, a figure that has steadily risen over the past 5 years. There has been no increase in employees disclosing a mental health problem to their employer, despite how far we’ve come in understanding common diagnoses such as anxiety and depression.

 

To see the impact this has on your organisation is eye opening. Eighty five percent of employees statethey found it difficult to concentrate at work and nearly half say they felt less patient when dealing with customers and clients. The bottom line cost to your organisation is hard to calculate,  although in 2010/2011 the HSE calculated the cost of work-related stress/psychological absences to be around £3.6billion to the UK economy. Given the figures have all risen since 2011, we can only assume the cost to be greater in 2017.

 

Let’s put that in real terms. On average, employee absence from work due to stress, anxiety or depression lasts 23.9 days. Rounding this down to 4 working weeks, and at an average salary of £27,600pa, the cost to the organisation is a minimum of £2,300 per employee, per absence. With 31% of the workforce saying they’ve experienced a mental health problem at work, and that cost not taking in to account any productivity loss, you can quite easily calculate an estimate for your organisation, around £700 per employee approximately.

 

Looking at wider surveys, the UK tends to rank very low when it comes to employee wellbeing. A study from Business in the Community in 2016 showed that UK workforces were 31% less productive than those of the US, and 17% less productive than the other G7 countries. The UK ranked as low as 18th out of 20 countries surveyed for employee engagement.

 

We know that the stigma is still there – 95% of employees who were absent in 2015 due to a mental health condition cited another reason for their absence, so we can’t expect people to be honest and open. We know that mental health conditions can affect anyone, at any time, so a solution should be available to everyone. We know that the only way an organisation can effectively scale a solution is through technology, hence why we have intranets, internal newsletters, mobile benefit schemes and vouchers, among others.

 

Dr Andres Fonseca is a Consultant Psychiatrist, Honorary Lecturer at UCL and CEO of Thrive Therapeutic Software, who shares this opinion.

 

“In my career as a psychiatrist, I calculated that I could aim to help around 16,000 patients from qualification to retirement. That figure is insignificant compared to the size of the problem. We will never be able to train enough therapists or doctors to cope with the ever-growing mental health issue, and the only way we can confidently deliver a solution globally is by using technology and proven therapeutic techniques.”

 

Andres was Group Medical Director of one of the UKs largest independent mental health hospital groups before joining forces with a highly experienced games developer (credits including Tomb Raider and many more). Following 4 years of clinical research and development, they released the first evidence based app for employees to pro-actively manage common mental health conditions called ‘Feel Stress Free’ – available on all iOS and Android devices. Having rolled out to several organisations across various sectors, the app has a take up rate of over 65%, compared to the average 2% for an Employee Assistance Programme.

 

In what is the most competitive economic climate for decades, 2017 must be the year we take a pro-active stance on employee wellbeing. Retaining, looking after, and supporting your staff should be a priority. Why? The statistics alone prove your business will benefit immeasurably.

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