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Can Our ‘Always-On’ Data Help Mental Health at Work

4 Nov 2020
Michelle Lownie

There is a tinge of irony in the fact that the technology that has enabled much of the country to operate, in many cases more productively, from their home office, may also be the cause of many of the mental health issues we face. 

However, in a positive twist, it may also become the solution. 

The always-on culture that our digital economy has created is cited as one of the leading causes of poor mental wellbeing. The ready access to our devices, the cloud computing solutions that enable businesses to operate from laptops, tablets and mobile phones, has heightened the pressure on many. It has created an unhealthy culture of presenteeism amongst businesses. 

The impact of COVID-19 hastened the remote-working transition for many businesses, from a meandering Sunday drive to light-speed, and, it would seem, added to the mental strain on many. 

A recent stat I read suggested that over 80% of employees had noticed a decline in their mental wellbeing as a result of the pandemic. 

Social Interaction

For our team at Eden Scott, we were in the fortunate position that we had already transitioned to a cloud-based platform for our systems and were rolling out a programme of remote working to establish a more flexible workforce, just as lockdown kicked in. 

However, for many of our team, as with employees across the country, they left the office in a bit of a hurry in March and haven't been back since. Unfortunately, as a consequence, they've left the social interaction that we've always enjoyed as a company as they walked out the door six months ago. 

We've missed our summer socials, end of year celebrations, even just the Friday afternoon pint. The social side of work, which isn't quite the same via Zoom, is missing from many people's lives and is also highlighted as a cause of much of the anguish. 

Cost of Mental Health  

The cost of mental health issues for business is thought to be between £33-42 billion a year in the UK, not to mention the cost on the employee. 

The impact also seems to affect the younger generation disproportionately, or certainly in the way they deal with it. 

Research highlights that 37% of 18-24-year-olds admitted to hiding their mental health issues from their employers, with some feigning physical ailments rather than divulging their mental health problems. This is compared with only 13% amongst over 55-year-olds. 

The Solution

Poor mental health is a growing problem and one that employers must face up too. Early intervention is crucial. Analysis suggests that for every £1 employers spend on mental health support, they get £5 back in reduced absence and presenteeism. 

The first step, as with all problems, is facing up to the challenge and admitting poor mental health exists. There are still a lot of employers who have their head in the sand when it comes to mental wellbeing. Just because you can't see the problem doesn't mean it doesn't exist. 

Creating an open and inclusive culture is essential, however, this concept gets banded about a lot and is often seen by employees as platitudes from senior leaders on marketing material. 

Open culture has to come from leadership, they have to drive it. It’s not enough for those spearheading their companies to have it headlining a brochure or as a banner on their website. They have to live it, which isn’t easy. Leaders must show they are willing to tackle the cause and effect of mental wellbeing and discuss challenges openly; otherwise, employees will lose faith. 

In addition, there needs to be some investment in technology. I know this is difficult for some businesses, especially as we tackle one of the worst recessions on record. But the question is, what is the cost of not investing in your staff's mental wellbeing. 

The real benefit of our reliance on technology is that it provides meaningful data to help affect change. 

The market is now awash with some excellent platforms which provide a host of mental health solutions. There are free apps available which you can introduce your team too, some with enterprise solutions that you can make bespoke for your organisation, whatever the demands.

The data, combined with the right research, can help your employees manage their mental health themselves or get the proper guidance and support they need to deal with their challenges. 

We recently teamed up with Scottish start-up, Trickle, an exciting employee engagement and well-being platform, to help us retain some of the social interaction we all crave. 

As our team retreated to their home office, we realised there needed to be a hub for conversation, openness and more importantly, celebrating success. 

Trickle provides us with that, but also offers an additional well-being product which enables our staff to get the help and support they need quickly. 

Create a happier, more productive workforce

Mental wellbeing is not an easy issue to address. For employers, it is hugely challenging, made even more so with the rapid deployment of home working. 

However, facing up to these challenges, recognising their existence and talking about them is a start. Investing in the technology which is backed by relevant data, will help your team tackle the problems they might be facing and build a happier, more productive workforce. 

Author

Michelle Lownie
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