158 conversations with workplace wellbeing leaders

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Kooth Work exhibited at the 2023 The Watercooler workplace wellbeing event on 25th and 26th April. Here are 15 things they learned from 48 hours of talking with wellbeing leaders and hearing about what is happening in their organisations.

Insights were gleaned from HR and wellbeing leaders from a wide range of industry sectors, with company sizes ranging from 100 to 100,000.

1. Employers need more data on workforce mental wellbeing

Employers needed more data to gain a clearer understanding of the mental wellbeing needs of their employees, to help set meaningful objectives, to inform prevention initiatives, and to establish metrics to measure the success of their wellbeing programmes. Kooth Work were able to provide information about their Flourish benchmark tool and ongoing Qwell regular reporting, and to share information around how to use reporting and data insights to improve workforce mental wellbeing.

2. Workforce wellbeing leaders are looking to extend support beyond the workplace

Kooth Work’s recent Missing the Mark report identified the need for employee mental health support to be easily accessible beyond the workplace and working hours. They see this regularly in the usage trends from their digital mental health platform in the reports they provide to their clients. As an example they see 58% of employees using their support options outside of work hours. Kooth Work were able to share information on how their Qwell support platform can enable employers to provide their employees with continued access to their professional mental health support when they get home. 

3. Employers are looking for support options to extend to employee families

A few Reward and Benefits specialists came to the stand who wanted to talk about support options for the families of their employees. Interestingly, they commented that they had struggled to find mental wellbeing support for partners and children under the age of 16. 

Employers were also keen to ask about what support could be provided to the families of their employees. Given Kooth’s 22 years of experience in supporting the mental health of children throughout their school years and now as parents and employees, they were able to provide information on their Kooth Work + Home package, designed to support the partners and dependents of employees.

4. Employees who grew up with Kooth had good things to say

Nothing feels quite as good as when an employee comes up to you and shares their personal stories of how your service helped them through different stages in their life. Many of those children who had access to Kooth at an early age through their school are now in employment, and some even work in HR and Wellbeing roles. It was really nice to meet some of these people at the event.

5. Choosing a digital mental wellbeing partner is hard when everything looks the same

The team at Kooth Work learned how difficult it is for HR and Wellbeing leaders to understand the differences between the multiverse of digital wellbeing offerings. How do you tell the difference between a general wellbeing or mindfulness app, a survey tool, online community, and a credible BACP-accredited platform with the ability to access professional support in minutes?   

There are now so many wellbeing offerings and platforms that all sound the same on the surface. It is not until HR and Wellbeing leaders are able to take the time to talk to the different providers that the differences become more apparent.

6. We need a joint approach to support financial and mental wellbeing

Financial wellbeing was obviously high on the agenda. Financial anxiety has been a top three presenting issue for employees using the Kooth Work platform for the past year. Employers talked about the steps they were taking around financial wellbeing support, and were asking what Kooth Work are doing to support the emotional impact of financial pressures. Both Kooth Work’s employee and family packages have emotional support tools to manage financial anxieties, an online community, and the ability to talk with a mental wellbeing practitioner within minutes.

7. Mental health reasons are the main cause of employee absence

According to GoodShape’s data, 15.3 million UK working days were lost in Q4 due to mental health reasons, at a cost of £2.2 billion in one quarter alone.

The Kooth Work team had conversations with Wellbeing leaders around how to become more proactive and reduce this number. They shared how their reporting provides visibility on the factors that are at play in the workforce today and are likely to cause mental health absences. They also talked about how they can provide their employees with prevention, early intervention, and quick access to professional help to tackle this.

The informative sessions and awards were exceptionally well attended.

8. Mental Health First Aiders MHFAs need mental wellbeing support too

The Kooth Work team also answered questions about how they work with Mental Health First Aiders. They noted how many employers had implemented an EAP and MHFAs as the first stage of their journey into employee mental wellbeing support. The wellbeing leaders and MHFAs they spoke with were interested in what to do after they had put in these measures to support employees in crisis.

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Interesting conversations revolved around how to support the mental health of your MHFAs, and how to overcome the challenge of employees not feeling comfortable seeking help from a colleague who is their MHFA.

9. We spent a lot of time explaining how we are different to an EAP

The Kooth Work team were asked the question “Are you an EAP?” many times. They have a different purpose to an EAP and operate in the prevention and early intervention side. 

This highlighted the confusion around what EAPs (Employee Assistance Programmes) are, especially as it has become such a ubiquitous term in the workplace wellbeing space. The team also learned that they need to do better in differentiating ourselves more clearly in this space. 

Kooth works as part of an ecosystem of support an employer can provide to their workforce. They are there to make access to BACP-accredited professional mental health support immediately and freely accessible by the 95% of staff who don’t qualify for the support available in an EAP, and the 71% of employees who want anonymity when exploring their mental health. Employees can be signposted into the Kooth Work platform from an EAP and other options. The Kooth Work platform can also refer users out to the different types of support provided by their EAP.

10. Wellbeing leaders want to move from a crisis response to prevention model

Most employers have invested time and money in EAPs, MHFAs, and reactive solutions as their first steps. Now there is a strong will to develop a more proactive approach.

As an organisation that has focused on prevention and early intervention, it was heartening to speak with HR and Wellbeing leaders actively seeking to move towards a prevention model. The greatest hurdle appears to be around how to build a business case for investment and educating other parts of the business.

Industry has long understood that the best way to prevent a physical injury is to have highly effective safety, early detection, and prevention plans in place. The same is true for mental health and this is what Kooth Work offers – early risk detection reporting, prevention strategies, and early intervention tools with immediate response.

11. Wellbeing leaders are thinking about ecosystems of support options

The Kooth Work team heard “mental health support is not a one size fits all approach” many times over. They spent time talking with wellbeing professionals about how there is no silver bullet and that whilst they can cover a lot of requirements, Kooth Work, our tools, and platform are part of an ecosystem of support that needs to be designed around the needs of each specific workforce.

12. Absence and leavers remain key indicators of mental health.

Employers commonly use absence, attrition, and the number of people accessing emergency support as the KPIs. We talked with employers who wanted to shift their focus using Kooth Work’s reporting to predictive data and mental wellbeing KPIs.

13. Employers want their in-person, F2F, and digital employee support options to work together

The Kooth Work team talked to HR and Wellbeing leaders who were currently looking at both professional face-to-face support and counselling options, and digital support options that could work together. They guided them to the Qwell support platform and demonstrated how it is used alongside in-person support to provide inclusive choices and to broaden the support coverage of their workforce.

14. Frameworks help wellbeing leaders

Across the sessions and the discussions, there was a keenness amongst visitors to gain clarity around wellbeing and how to build an inclusive wellbeing programme. The team noted that most wellbeing frameworks that talk to mental wellbeing focus on EAPs and MHFAs. However, the best one they have reviewed so far is BITC’s mental health commitment and toolkit. It was felt that there is still a need to demystify  digital support options, and discuss how to build a data led approach, how to address the prevention gap, and how to support employees beyond the workplace and outside work hours.

15. We are all playing an important role in changing workplace culture

After 158 conversations, it became clear that the people who work in workplace wellbeing are passionate about making a difference. Service providers and the HR and Wellbeing leaders working in organisations are coming together to change workplace culture.

A version of this article originally appeared here on Kooth Work’s website.

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