For employers previously reticent to invest in supporting staff mental health, Covid-19 has pushed the fast-forward button. Companies are now recognising the value of investing in the stability of their human capital on par with their financial capital.
As CIPD recently reported, we’re seeing increasing awareness of mental health issues across workforces (70%, up from 31% in 2016). Training managers to support staff with mental ill health is also up (51%, up from 22% in 2016).
But with the new challenges companies face in supporting significant numbers of home workers (which is expected to continue for the foreseeable future), many traditional wellbeing support solutions are no longer viable for staff. Initiatives such as: in person mental health training; staff wellness days; team wellness activities and sport challenges/fundraising have been shelved. For this very practical reason, more employers than ever are turning to digital and tele health support.
The Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH) and One Mind PsyberGuide’s, new digital guidance resource, “Digital Tools and Solutions for Mental Health” couldn’t have come at a better time.
Digital wellbeing popularity causes pitch fatigue
Whilst it’s good news that employers are prioritising support for staff in record numbers, the reality is it’s a crowded market of digital providers and it can be overwhelming to decide on what solution is best for your company.
“Employers are faced with a multitude of options when considering digital solutions for mental health” said Stephen Schueller, Executive Director of One Mind PsyberGuide and Assistant Professor of Psychological Science at the University of California, Irvine. “This often leads to pitch fatigue; employers are approached by various companies and may not know what else is out there and what might be able to meet their needs.”
Launch of credible guidance to choose the digital support best for your workforce
The NEBGH and One Mind PsyberGuide’s “Digital Tools and Solutions for Mental Health,” is a comprehensive employer guide that provides HR and benefits leaders with the information they need to assess and select digital mental health solutions for their employees. “Our guide can help empower employers to select from these options and make an informed decision for their workplace,” says Stephen Schueller.
Funding for the guide was provided by the Bowman Family Foundation, Aetna and Johnson & Johnson. The guide is free for employers and the public, and can be accessed here.
Featuring a list of two dozen notable mental health digital solutions and their key characteristics, the guide includes what conditions each tool targets (e.g. stress, depression, anxiety) and the types of intervention it offers (e.g. coaching, mindfulness, meditation, clinical therapy).
The resource includes a fact sheet on each solution as well as case studies of four major employers that have been experimenting with digital mental health solutions to help support employees address issues ranging from stress and sleep to overall wellbeing.
And within the Mental Health Solutions Tool Chart, purchasers can drill down into each listed product based on the following key features:
- Target Condition
- Type of Platform
- Reporting Capability
- Tech Support Options
- Overall Rating
In addition, the guide features a checklist of key considerations for employers when evaluating and selecting a digital mental health solution. These include but are not limited to:
- Who is the target population for the solution? Some employers may just include employees while others will want to target family members including adults and children.
- What are employers looking to achieve? Raising awareness and providing education on mental health, reducing stress, and enhancing overall wellbeing, happiness and productivity are just a few goals employers may want to achieve with a digital mental health solution.
- How will employers effectively engage employees? Employer will need to consider whether the digital solution will complement existing mental health resources and how will they communicate and market the solutions to employees and family members.
Is home working & digital wellbeing support here to stay?
The dust is very much still settling with the crisis still not behind us. Employers are trying to make the right decisions for the health and safety of workers in return to work planning, so it’s early days to say how soon we’ll be going back to traditional office-based wellbeing support solutions.
Helpful new data from Engaging Works’ recent Engaging Business Working From Home Analysis Report surveying 3,000 homeworkers in the UK, shines a light on the desires of workers.
It found 17% of private sector employees preferring to continue working from home and 49% of private sector staff wishing to work from home at least a few days a week as we recover from the health pandemic.
If the future of wellbeing support is digital, will quality control improve?
Suffice to say, digital wellbeing care is here to stay as increased home working will very likely continue in the ‘new normal.’ And with increased demand, quality and efficacy of digital tools will undoubtedly improve rapidly, hopefully hastened by a call to action research study recently launched by Dr. Becky Inkster.
The research involves five calls to action to ensure the safety, availability and long-term sustainability of these technologies, including:
- Removing harmful health apps from app stores;
- Use relevant health data insights from high-quality digital tools to inform the greater response to Covid-19;
- Make high-quality digital health tools available without charge where possible, and especially to those most vulnerable;
- Transform conventional offline mental health services to make them digitally available; and
- Encourage governments and insurers to work with developers to look at how digital health management could be subsidized or funded.
Getting on the front foot makes business – and – ethical sense
It’s not a matter of how, but when mental health and wellbeing support will become mainstream across businesses – in the same way that corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become business as usual. Being on the front foot and understanding the social responsibility employers have to their own colleagues, will set businesses apart in tough financial times ahead, as we’ve seen with early adopters of a CSR agenda over the past fifteen years. And there’s also the business case.
Pre-Covid-19 mental health conditions were already a leading cause of lost workdays and employers could expect a return on investment of £5 for every £1 spent on supporting employee mental health. Imagine what those figures are today.
Being well-equipped with credible guidance toward effective solutions responding to the needs of today’s, and tomorrow’s, workers is a step in the right direction.
About the author
Heather Kelly is the founder of Aura Wellbeing, a consultancy providing workplace wellness strategy, coaching and training services to employers. She’s also Content Director for Make a Difference Summit US and Online Editor for Make a Difference News. Heather led the development and operation of the Workplace Wellbeing Index, during her time working for the UK’s largest mental health charity, Mind. In her earlier career she worked as a photographer, a journalist and a senior manager in the insurance industry. She’s passionate about inspiring more empathy and awareness in workplaces toward normalising mental health and in her spare time Heather teaches photography to teens as part of a charity projects in London and Spain, she’s an avid runner and experimental chef for recipes promoting healthy minds.