Meeting the needs of employee mental health through technology 

Meeting the needs of employee mental health through technology 

Sarah Baldry, VP of People at Wysa, illuminates the transformative potential of placing employee mental well-being in the hands of companies through the integration of HR-supported mental health tools. These tools, offering Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) exercises and assessments, signify a proactive stance towards nurturing a supportive workplace culture. 

Sarah Baldry, VP of People at Wysa

We spend the majority of our waking lives at work. And the psychosocial factors of our working environment on an individual’s health and well-being are well documented. Employers play a pivotal role in supporting their workers with mental health, and it’s much needed, as research from Wysa found that a third of UK employees have clinically significant anxiety and/or depression. But of those people needing some kind of clinical intervention half haven’t spoken to a professional – and they certainly wouldn’t go to their boss. Instead, eight in ten (83%) would prefer digital tools to speak with HR. 

What is it that makes technology a compelling resource for employee mental health? 

Firstly, it can be personalised. Every individual is different, and their needs warrant an intervention that is aligned with their own personal demands. ‘One-size-fits’ employee wellness programmes just don’t work on this level, which may be why typical take-up is between 3% and 7%. The most effective health programmes are those that are accessible, usable and personalised to the individual’s needs. Utilising Artificial Intelligence, every individual can get support that is tailored and aligned to their own symptoms and ways of learning.  

Given the ubiquitous use of phones in our lives for everything, including physical health, it makes sense we also use them for mental health. Because when a crisis occurs in the middle of the working day, it’s not always convenient to call a therapist. But anyone can pull out their phone and work through some CBT or grounding exercises. That convenience is paramount, and especially important in a flexible working economy. If someone is working shifts or irregular working hours, the normal 9-5 of the health system just doesn’t work for them. The other element that is useful about the phone is that it’s discrete. You could be checking an email – or getting mental health support. 

We need to transition from focusing solely on ill health to genuinely emphasising wellbeing. Rather than simply responding to issues, smart businesses are actively exploring ways to ensure our individuals thrive and flourish in every aspect of their lives, be it personal or professional. 

Providing everyone with a digital health tool with self-help resources and educational support sends a message that the company is committed to supporting its people with their mental health and well-being. That advocacy and awareness is huge, as it shifts the culture and makes it one where stigma is less likely to hold people back from speaking up and seeking support. When leadership demonstrate a commitment to health in all its facets and backs it up with real-life support, it can echo through the organisation. While talking to Wysa, 42% of employees opened up about their declining mental health – the first step towards recognising there is an issue and doing something about it. If people don’t think their symptoms are severe enough to warrant professional input, they are unlikely to take steps to get support. But this doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t benefit from some targeted help or intervention, if that was advertised and available to them easily, without the need to first approach a health professional. This is where digital solutions can make their mark. 

One of the benefits of technology being so readily available is that it can act as a preventative tool. The majority of people don’t need significant clinical intervention. But we know that the longer people wait to get help, the more likely they are to deteriorate, escalating risk levels and making it harder to recover. It’s worrying that people aren’t getting support, due to embarrassment, not feeling ‘sick enough’, shame, stigma and a lack of knowledge, or practical considerations such as getting an appointment. Not having help can result in increasing severity and longevity, and has significant implications for the individual, society, and our workforce. It’s clear that articulating our deepest feelings to others, even professionals or HR teams, is still challenging for so many. But the technology is available now for a digital front door to get the support that people need when they need it. It may be that we need more avenues to seek support, from an appointment with a GP to an app on your phone, catering for different needs and situations. 

What is essential is that this is measured. According to a recent Deloitte study, large firms invest US$10 million in employee wellness, yet issues like burnout and mental health continue to escalate. There’s evident room for improvement. It’s crucial to incorporate impact assessment tools within these wellness projects. Technology like Wysa offers the capability to quantify the issue, empowering businesses with data to inform decisions about prioritising resources. 

Establishing a direct link between interventions and results, especially in the realm of mental health with its emphasis on long-term outcomes presents hurdles. As well as standard mental health assessments such as PHQ-9 and GAD-7 businesses can examine other indicators such as paid leave (indicative of relaxation), absenteeism and learning hours. Technology enables the integration of metrics within the programme itself, alleviating individual strain and minimising expenses, all seamlessly incorporated into the programme’s journey. 

 Currently, the burden falls on the NHS to solve the mental health crisis. But we can see that employees are struggling more than the average population. The current delivery model is unable to cope with the scale of demand, so we need other solutions. Given that these people are quite simply responsible for driving forward the health of the economy, we need to support them to be their very best, for their own well-being and society’s. The research points to a collaborative approach, where employers signpost and support their staff to get the help they need. HR can be that front door to recovery. 

Wysa is a global leader in AI-driven mental health support, available both to individuals, through employer benefits programmes and healthcare services. We believe access to support should be available whenever people need it. Stigma prevails, so we take away the need for people to ask for help and eliminate the need for people to make a judgment call on when they should seek professional support. Proven to improve depression and anxiety scores by an average of 31%, Wysa’s AI-first approach enables employees to improve their mental health before symptoms become severe, by understanding an individual’s needs and guiding them through interactive cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) exercises. Wysa’s clinically safe AI encourages users to take additional support, whenever it’s needed, by guiding them towards Wysa’s human coaching, employer benefits programmes (EAP) or national crisis lines. Wysa has helped over 6 million people through 550 million AI conversations across 95 countries. 

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