Technological advances are making waves in mental health support
Awareness of mental health has risen dramatically over recent years. Our 2018 Health and Well-being at Work survey in partnership with the CIPD saw respondents reporting an increase in common mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression - additionally nearly three-fifths now include it among their top three causes of long-term absence (56% of organisations compared with 42% in 2016).
Technology offers great opportunities, and diverse options, for employers to provide mental health support. We can now access guidance and advice through apps, wearable technology and even virtual reality.
Encouraging employees to proactively look after their wellbeing starts with improving awareness of health, and technology can really help. There are a range of apps designed to help us look after our mental health, including anything from a safe online community, to mood trackers, meditation and mindfulness.
Advice and counselling through digital channels
One of the strongest benefits technology offers is easier access to mental health services. Speaking to a counsellor in person can be daunting for many. Traditional face-to-face counselling can also be timely, if a referral is needed, or costly, if you have to pay for private services.
Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) often include options to use counselling through an online service; for example video calling, email, or instant messaging. This can provide immediate, ‘in the moment’ support and be a better, more practical fit in many people’s lives. We know this because our clients’ use of online counselling** has more than doubled year on year.
Empowering employers with predictive technology
Perhaps the most exciting prospect for technology and wellbeing, is in predictive mental health. Wearable technology (things like Fitbits and Apple watches) has huge potential for helping employers support employee mental health. For example, by tracking health data, employers can help identify and monitor physical signs of mental health, such as stress levels. Employers can then signpost employees to further support.
Currently, just 9% of organisations offer employees the use of wearable technology to encourage wellbeing. And only 13% of those collect data from wearable tech*. But we certainly see this as an area for growth, especially when employers illustrate how they will use employee data, and build trust.
More and more, we’ll see solutions for mental health designed with digital lives in mind. Forward-thinking employers will be grasping these with both hands, to help employees get easier access to support, encourage them to proactively look after their mental wellbeing, and even identify issues before they arise.