The signs are that mental health issues are becoming more common in the workplace, reflecting both the pace and change of modern life (factors outside of work) and sometimes the work environment itself (see, for instance, a report from the Mental health Foundation titled “Surviving or Thriving?”) While employers can adopt policies, instigate training and coaching of managers and develop a positive workplace culture there are other measures that can be taken and one such measure is to utilize new technology.
An example of the use of software comes from Adrian Lewis, who is the director of a company that manufacturers absence management software. The company is called Activ Absence. Thinking about how technology can offer a business solution, Adrian Lewis has told the website London Loves Business: “Stress is a rising workplace epidemic employers just can’t afford to ignore. Often employers are only aware of issues when an employee is signed off sick with stress, which is too late – by this point, productivity could have been affected for months and the employee will have suffered both at home and work – it’s a lose-lose for everyone involved.”
To guard against this happening, Lewis sees technology as the answer. Through appropriate software, Lewis explains, firms can monitor employee absence patterns. Fundamental elements of being “a good employer”, such as conducting return to work interviews after the employee has been off sick, also help. Putting absence analytics and together with qualitative findings from return-to-work assessments can be put together to provide a clearer picture of health and mental well-being across the workforce. The employer can use software to ask ‘what are the triggers for sickness absence at the workplace?’ and ‘how many instances of sickness absence are mental health related?’
Such data also allows employers to target groups of staff with different well-being initiatives (something that becomes increasingly important with a larger organization). Analytics can also help to identify individual employees who are at risk and allow managers to address possible mental health challenges at an earlier stage.
In a separate interview with HR News, Lewis adds that cultural changes have to accompany the implementation of absence tracking technology – the software alone cannot substitute the ‘good employer’. Here he states: “We would like to see employers encouraging greater openness about mental health so sufferers don’t feel isolated, stigmatized or scared they will lose their jobs if they admit to having problems. It’s important to send a clear message that workers who are suffering from stress or depression will receive support and not judgment.”
Through such approaches there are positive signs that a growing number of businesses are encouraging their employees to be healthy and emotionally resilient.