While much emphasis has been placed on corporate culture as a means of tackling mental health issues, employers shouldn’t forget the support that technology can lend.
According to the World Health Organisation, over 300m individuals suffer from depression across the globe. Some 260m have anxiety disorders. Many people, it stressed, have both – and it’s losing the global economy $1tn each year.
An article by Time magazine even stressed that “there hasn’t been a major depression-drug breakthrough in nearly three decades. And about 30 per cent of all people don’t respond adequately to available treatments. That’s a dismal failure rate for a class of drug designed to improve a person’s basic ability to function.”
But that’s where technology comes in, moving at as fast a pace as ever. There’s really an app for everything, not to mention behaviour trackers and online therapy sessions. In the US, scientists have created a virtual reality treatment meant to take you back in time through sounds and images so as to better discuss past experiences.
While these may not necessarily be adaptable to the workplace, there’s plenty of ways employers can use technology to their advantage. One boss doing just that is Tom Marsden, CEO of Saberr, who tells Real Business about the toolkit the company is making.
Do you believe mental health within the sector is adequately being addressed?
No – I think there are worrying signs. One survey (Britain’s healthiest workplace study by vitality, University of Cambridge) indicated that the average number of days off to absenteeism has in fact risen from 23 to 30 since 2014. Some areas like smoking at work seem to be getting better but others like diet, sleep deprivation and stress seem to be getting worse.
What do you believe are the benefits of investing in employees’ health and wellbeing?
There’s a core human benefit which is that physical and mental health are important for happiness. However, there’s a clear link to productivity too – if we need a business case. In 2015-16 according to UK health and safety, executive stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 45 per cent of days lost to ill-health.
Read more about the technology Saberr is developing on the next page.