Improving mental health in the workplace using technology


Today is World Mental Health Day. It is often said that the increased use of technology in our lives is contributing to a rise in mental ill-health, but often, little is said about how technology can actually help with mental health issues too.

INITION were at Mad World yesterday, a solutions-focused conference and exhibition focusing on eradicating stigma surrounding mental health and sparking a new era of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

The figures revealed at Mad World were worrying:

  • Mental ill-health is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, costing an average of £1,035 per employee per year
  • Organisations promoting wellbeing are three and a half times more likely to be creative and innovative
  • 87% of HR leaders say improved staff retention is a high/critical priority
  • 53% of millennials say a healthy work-life balance would make them stay at their job
  • Anxiety and depression among workers in the UK has hit a record high, rising by nearly a third in the last four years
  • FTSE companies which prioritise employee engagement and wellbeing outperform the rest of those on the FTSE100 list by 10%
  • Replacing an employee costs on average 21% of their annual pay
  • The Thriving at Work report puts the annual cost to the UK economy of poor mental health at up to £99bn, of which about £42bn is borne by employers

It’s all about the culture…

The importance of workplace culture is often overlooked, it is however a critical factor in retaining employees in an organisation. It can often be the difference between somewhere being a great place to work, and others being completely toxic.

Even the most talented and skilled employee can be bogged down by a poor work environment. It is said that negativity kills creativity, and boy is that true.

Shifting a poor workplace culture is never going to be easy…

People get stuck in their ways and are intrinsically resistant to change. However, by drawing on the positive aspects of culture and gradually tuning out the negatives, changes can be far easier to implement.

Mental ill-health can be misunderstood by bosses and unsympathetic co-workers. They often don’t understand just how debilitating it can be for the sufferer and how this can make getting the day job done near impossible.

Where INITION steps in…

VR can be used in a variety of ways to influence wellbeing and mental health. The immersive aspect of this particular technology can positively affect your mental state in a very short time. The most obvious application of this would be using meditation or mindfulness content to transform a stressed or harassed worker into a calm efficient one who is more effective and able to cope with their workload. All it takes is a quiet corner in the staff room where a person can escape into another world. However, VR also allows employers and employees alike, to step into the shoes of those suffering with mental ill-health. This can be an overwhelmingly powerful tool for creating empathy and raising awareness of sufferer’s daily struggles.

The idea of ‘borrowing another’s eyes’ to see a different perspective is a widely discussed aspect of VR.

No strangers to a project with a social purpose, INITION recently worked with The Cornerstone Partnership to create a first-of-its-kind, immersive training tool. The powerful and sometimes disturbing content, taken from a child’s view of being raised in a family with drug addiction, is poignant and moving. This has already seen transformative results in the social care sector and is leading the way in training and education in this area. “Being Me: Revealing and Healing Childhood Trauma” shows the power of VR and how it can help stimulate empathy and create a better understanding of what it’s like for the sufferer.

By using this technology to create a world where people really understand these modern-day issues, we can really make a difference and help drive those worrying statistics down.