Mental health doesn't stop at the front door. Christopher Golby, co-founder and director at Lumien, and Guy Outram, co-founder of Mindspace247, discuss the importance of a developed workplace strategy to support employees through the current Covid-19 mental health crisis.

The workplace mental health implications of Covid-19 have been immense. People accustomed to the buzz of the office contended with the challenges of homeworking and limited interaction with others, while many frontline and key workers faced anxiety around self-care, nutrition, and burnout in exceedingly hectic environments with the added pressure of learning – let alone implementing – new infection control regimes, policies and procedures.

Many people too, remained anxious about infecting or being infected by their colleagues, patients or clients, and passing the virus on to vulnerable relatives and household members shielding at home.

The pandemic has been a new problem for many people the world over, reactions have varied, but what remains clear is that the present situation is unsustainable, with further dire psychological, human, and economic calamities an imminent possibility.

The mental health crisis: what is the role of workplaces?

In May this year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that between late March and late August 2020, while all diagnoses, both mental health and non-mental health decreased, depression diagnoses increased by 1.3% to 15.6% as a share of the total UK figure when compared with the same period the previous year before the pandemic.

The situation worsened as the pandemic progressed, with the proportion of adults reporting experiences of depression in some form rising to 21% in early 2021, compared with 19% in June 2020, a staggering jump. Depression levels were also high amongst younger adults, especially younger women, 43% of whom went through depression.

Based on these figures, Covid-19’s mental health impact on the UK workforce is demonstrably severe. In addition to the devastating personal impact on individuals, it is well-known that poor mental health can have a detrimental effect on an employee’s productivity and performance at work. ONS research for example has shown that over 10% of all work sickness absences in 2020 were down to mental health conditions, making it one of four major health factors preventing people from coming to work.

Employers’ taking an interest in their staff’s wellbeing, therefore, makes both moral and business sense. As the Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford once said: “The two most important things in any company do not appear on its balance sheet – its reputation and its people”. Looking after employee wellbeing has a clear part to play in both of these, and can help promote productivity, rapport, and motivation amongst staff, while bringing potential added bonuses such as strong evidence for reputation-enhancing accreditations such as Investors in People.

Though many executives across the private, public, and voluntary sectors might be aware of both the potential human and financial consequences that a lack of mental wellbeing amongst their workforces can have, they may well be scratching their heads as to how they can address this problem. The challenge might seem intangible and vacuous, but it certainly does not need to be this way.

Staff wellbeing and a supportive working culture can and should be an actionable part of every board meeting, and a proactive and preventative mental health and wellbeing policy are achievable for any workplace. The most effective approaches require both a macro- and micro-element, and the model developed by our two organisations, the mental health software company Lumien, and the therapy provider Mindspace 247, is there to show everyone how the admirable goal of workforce wellbeing can be a reality for millions of companies, charities, and public bodies worldwide.

Delivering a workplace strategy

Our partnership provides a clear blueprint for what considerations other organisations’ can make when looking to develop their own practical employee mental health plans. With operations established in the UK market, and a branch in the United States due to open this December, we joined forces to deliver a complete mental health and wellbeing solution, combining a single software platform with a dedicated 24/7 counselling hotline. This offers clients the opportunity to take a data-driven, strategic approach to wellbeing, with all the necessary tools available to their employees.

Lumien provides anonymous data reports, tools and resources for employees; alongside whole company analytics, and tools for driving a wellbeing strategy across a whole organisation. The company then delivers reports and recommendations at an individual, team and entire business level, allowing everyone to take a more proactive approach and place their team’s wellbeing on the balance sheet.

Whilst Lumien, as a whole, supports organisations in designing a healthy workplace, and offering self-help tools for employees, Mindspace247 completes the circle by providing the counselling hotline staffed by specialist therapists, supplying the vital human aspect for those who need support straight away.
We hope that our insights will help other businesses and organisations to start considering real steps to improve the wellbeing of their most valuable assets during these trying times. To do so is both possible, and necessary.