Managing Mental Well-being in the Workplace: Can Health Tech Help? #2: Awareness

This is the second in our series of articles on Mental Health Wellbeing in the Workplace, following on from the AXA Health Tech & You Round-Table discussion hosted by 2020health in January.  Our first article highlighted some of the headline figures of the AXA HTY digital health ‘State of the Nation’ survey by YouGov.

This second picks up on one the key themes that emerged from the Round-Table discussion; changing attitudes and increasing awareness across our society about the prevalence of mental distress and its effect on peoples’ lives; and about the importance of mental wellbeing and early intervention and prevention.  Reflecting on the many changes over my working life; starting in the City as a trainee accountant, when computers were the size of a room and lowly auditors worked with Tipp-Ex and calculators; I recalled some lines of poetry by T.S. Elliot, about the despairing death-like crowd flowing over London Bridge in a foggy winter dawn, as I commuted into work each morning and grappled with the strangeness and challenge of this new grown up working life. A bit melodramatic, but I was an idealistic English Literature Graduate, adapting to corporate life in a traditional, stiff upper lip environment, where admitting to stress was not an option!

Thankfully, things have moved on and there is greater awareness of the incidence of mental illness in our society, and an acknowledgement that it needs to be addressed, just as much as physical illness. Alongside the mental health charities, including MIND who were represented on our Roundtable panel; public figures such as the younger members of Royal Family, are raising the public profile and seeking to eliminate stigma around mental health with their Heads Together Charity.

OneInFour (2)

The current received wisdom is that ‘at any one time’ , “around 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem”.  Drawing on the results of the AXA HTY YouGov poll, Round-Table chair Julia Manning observed, it is more likely that “we’re getting on for half the population who have experienced some sort of mental health distress” at some point in their lives.  Significantly, this is being reflected in government health policy and corporate HR policies; highlighted by the recent government commissioned Farmer Stevenson Report, Thriving At Work . A key recommendation being that, “all employers, regardless of size or industry, should adopt 6 ‘mental health core standards’ that lay basic foundations for an approach to workplace mental health”. Eve Critchley of MIND shared their experience of implementing the Work Place Wellbeing Index as the benchmark, “we’re taking this seriously and we’re willing to share some of our results, and data as well, so we can benchmark how we’re doing and set a target for improvement”.

Alongside the anguish of mental illness for sufferers and their families, the Roundtable reflected on societal and commercial impacts of mental illness on this scale. The YouGov survey showed that of the 41% respondents taking days off work as a result of mental illness, 18% took 21 days or more. The Thriving At Work report suggests that untreated mental health costs employers between £33 billion and £42 billion each year. The commercial good sense of supporting mental wellbeing in the workplace was underlined by reflections from panellist, Chris Tomkins . He shared analysis by Professor Alex Edmunds, of companies with wellbeing programmes, and those without , showing that companies with wellbeing programmes grew, on average, between 2.3% and 3.8% faster than those without. As Chris reflected, “Certainly, any large corporate’s going to be impressed by 4% growth. That’s a major impact”.

Kathy Mason, March 2018

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An edited version of this article was published by The Huffington Post on 23/02/2018

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About maseyukdigitalhealth

Kathy is an acknowledged leader in digital health; passionate about increasing the use of digital technologies to activate people to take greater control of their own health and wellbeing. Her previous career has spanned the health and care sector, from DH policy to NHS frontline management. She gained a reputation in effective digitally-enabled improvement achieved with high levels of clinical engagement in local health and care services, before moving to national roles, including a leading role in the successful implementation of digital imaging capability across England and launching the NHS England’s Patient Online Programme. Now working as an independent expert and consultant she remains committed to supporting the development of digital health. She is a senior Associate with 2020health and is leading a workstream as part of the NHS England Global Digital Exemplar Evaluation in partnership with Edinburgh University and Arden Gem CSU. Her voluntary work in the sector includes working with One Health Tech, who’s aim is to drive change in health technology through greater diversity, to establish a Hub for Wales; has just finished a 3 year tenure as a member of the Health and Social Care Council of the industry body techUK, including as Vice Chair in 2016; and works with the BCS Health Group. Kathy holds a Masters in Health Information Management and is an alumna of the Kings Fund Top Manager Programme.
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