As the UK heads towards the first anniversary of COVID19 lockdown restrictions, employers continue to be concerned about the impact on their employees’ mental health.
We are certainly seeing increased interest from employers in terms of the ways in which they can support their employees with their mental health and wellbeing. A catalyst for this has been the pandemic, but interest was already growing beforehand.
There’s certainly no shortage of commentary on this subject. It’s too early to say what the long-term effects of the pandemic will be on employee mental health, but predictions are dire and many short-term effects have been widely reported.
We know that the state of employees’ mental health has been causing concern for many years. For example, in a report published by Deloitte in early 2020, one sixth of workers were stated as having experienced a mental health problem at any one time, and anxiety and depression were thought to be responsible for almost half of working days lost in Britain due to health issues.
So, what can employers do to help support their employees’ mental health?
In recent years there has been a proliferation of mental health apps available on the market. Many of our clients have access to these, which are linked to other core benefits offered to employees.
Mental health apps provide employees with an opportunity to measure their levels of mental well-being. Typically, this is achieved by employees rating themselves in a number of questions such as: “How are you today?” “How motivated do you feel?” “What are your energy levels like today?” and “How well have you been sleeping lately?”. Trends and mood changes can be tracked over time to see to what extent the employee’s mood has improved, deteriorated or stayed the same. Results are analysed and sources of help and support are suggested, where required.
Results are confidential to individual employees, but many apps provide aggregated scores at a team or company level so that managers can gain a broad picture of how things are. Clearly, the extent to which the employer pays attention and acts as a result of the feedback provided is crucial. It is not enough simply to collect the data; action will ultimately speak louder than words. Indeed, many would argue that it’s worse to collect data and to not act on it than to not collect the data at all.
Digital tools such as mental health apps are one way for employers to understand how their employees are feeling. They can be used as an important preventative tool whereby employers can act swiftly to address any identified downturn in mood or mental wellbeing.
Digital apps are not a panacea. They are just one weapon in the responsible employer’s armoury. As mentioned above, it’s important to address any identified issues by the provision of appropriate support (for example access to remote GP or counselling services). Training and education, for example in mental health first aid or mental health awareness, are also important. But perhaps everything starts from an organisational culture in which mental health is given as much importance as physical health, where having a mental illness is not stigmatised and where leaders model good behaviour.
For further information on introducing mental health apps as part of your core benefits strategy, please contact your Brunsdon Financial Consultant.