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Mental health and the cost to business

"The number of adults experiencing depression has almost doubled"

Even prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of poor mental health at work was already receiving increasing attention – and rightly so. On top of the huge human cost, the knock on effect of mental health problems among workers for both businesses and the economy is immense.

The 2017 Stevenson/Farmer report Thriving at Work, an independent review for the government, found the annual cost to employers to be between £33 billion - £44 billionn with over half of that due to presenteeism, where individuals are clocking in but are less productive due to poor mental health in work.

The report concluded that in the interest of effective economic output, businesses and government should prioritise and invest more time and resources in improving the mental health of workers.

Research conducted by Deloitte also revealed how nurturing the emotional wellbeing of employees made good business sense. Through an examination of several case studies the report demonstrated that firms that took steps to improve the mental health of staff achieved a consistently positive outcome for businesses.

With all the upheavals and uncertainties brought on by the pandemic, it’s not surprising that data from the Office for National Statistics shows the number of adults experiencing depression has almost doubled since the pandemic began. Whatever challenging personal circumstances we have found ourselves in, from unsuitable working environments, job loss. loneliness or additional care burdens, these issues have endured and continue to do so and have been magnified for many during the pandemic.

As such, demand for support with the increase in mental health issues has surged. Yet at the same time, the ability to access and deliver traditional diagnoses and treatments has been dramatically reduced due to social distancing measures and pressures on the system. It’s such positive news that the rollout of vaccines has begun, but the impact and scars left so far by the pandemic will persist for some time.

On top of all this, mental health in the workplace has traditionally not been an easy subject to discuss, despite it being such a big problem. Individuals often suffer in silence due to the stigma around raising the issue or for fear that admitting they are struggling will negatively impact their careers.

While progress has been made in breaking down taboos around workplace mental health, with the added pressures that the pandemic is putting on people, we need to boost this process while also finding alternatives to assisting those in need in these socially distanced times.

Fortunately, as it has in so many other ways this year, technology has provided us with the means to help people through these unparalleled times. The need drastically to reduce face-to-face contact and the resulting shift to remote working has led to unprecedented interest in mental health apps among health professionals, companies and individuals.

As well as enabling support to be delivered safely under the restrictions imposed due to the pandemic, digital mental health interventions also help to reduce the stigma around accessing mental health support as apps can be sought and delivered at great discretion.

Over 10,000 mental health-related apps are now available on the worldwide market. They offer a wide variety of tools to help you improve your own mental health or your team members and staff, but care needs to be taken when selecting the best one for your particular needs.

There are differences in the quality and effectiveness between apps, which all make bold claims about their benefits. It therefore makes sense to seek out those that are endorsed and approved by member of the medical community. Some of digital interventions are already clinically proven to be effective and supported by the NHS. For example, a peer-reviewed scientific study into the effectiveness of our Be Mindful app revealed course completers enjoying a 63% reduction in depression, a 40% reduction in stress and a 58% anxiety reduction.

At a very basic level, simply maintaining social contact with colleagues via phone or video calls helps provide them with the opportunity to share their feelings if they are struggling. It alleviates isolation and reminds people that they are not alone and support tools are there if they need them.  Whatever options you choose to pursue, prioritising and working to improve and maintain your own as well as your teams’ mental health is a pivotal part of supporting wellbeing.

It’s also an extremely important element of maintaining the health of businesses and the economy as they also recover from the COVID-19 crisis. Leveraging technology in the form of digital mental health apps can be highly effective and an ideal way to help manage the challenges of supporting staff during the ongoing pandemic, and beyond.