Why the tech industry should lead the way in investing in mental health
Amy McKeown is a highly experienced and strategic health, mental health and wellbeing consultant who has truly unique experience in her field. Amy coaches organisations of all sizes, putting into place evidence based, measurable and sustainable strategies which are both innovative and fresh, as well as realistic. Amy shared her latest thoughts with Career Moves Group on why the tech industry should lead the way in investing in mental health...
In the Northern Hemisphere we are heading into a ‘winter of discontent.’ Uncertainty is everywhere. The scars and bruises of the last 6 months haven’t faded. Fear, anxiety and exhaustion balance any positivity that life may be returning to normal. As nights draw in and skies turn grey, mental health conditions (already at an all-time high) are likely to increase.
With every grey cloud there is a silver lining though...
Awareness of mental health and wellbeing has never been so high and there has never been more incentive to get this right. There has never been a better time to make mental health visible or close to the top of your organisational agenda. Indeed, the companies that rise to this challenge are likely to be the ones that become ‘employers of choice’ with engaged, loyal and more productive people. Places where people thrive, feel held and supported, and where the negative impact of mental health is less.
Tech, like every industry has to deal with the impact of long-term remote working. Work practices have to change. We can treat this as a massive opportunity and build a new working world and environment. We can be aware and honest about the human challenges and costs of working in the fast paced, rigorous and demanding tech world. We are, after all, humans and not machines. We can build the culture and support to enable everyone to thrive and to look after people during tough patches. We can use this opportunity to improve flexible and remote working options, create more equality (gender, disability…) and make the tech industry a more mentally healthy place for everyone.
5 things you need to be doing
A gold standard would be for each tech company to completely commission its own end to end, health and mental health care for its people and their families. This should be based around globally agreed principles of what good health and mental health is and what will be universally covered. You need to be able to stand before you run though. In the meantime:
1.Every company, no matter it’s size, needs a good health, mental health and wellbeing strategy.
This needs to include prevention and health promotion activities, how to support people in the early stages of illness, and how to manage absence and return to work. The strategy should be structured and joined up, include links to appropriate policies and give guidance to different groups of employees (HR, Line Managers, Senior Leaders, juniors) about what support is available and their roles. There needs to be a strategic, organisational approach to mental health.
2.Now is not the time to ‘do things on the cheap’.
Companies need to ensure that they have invested in suitable health and mental health providers. These must be built into the strategy and organisational processes, and communicated to employees. There are now countless health and mental health providers. Many are basic, commoditised and not very good or trendy ‘perks’ that don’t have any real impact. Now is the time to spend more, but on the right things. Virtual G.P. services, Occupational Health, proper Psychological pathways and therapy, improved private health insurance… are all things that will make a real difference moving forward.
3.Data and analytics.
With this often being the bread and butter of the industry, tech is uniquely placed be able to use data and analytics to measure any health or mental health interventions to understand what works and what provides ROI. Start by baselining what data you have – people data, use of existing health and mental health providers, absence – and then design and build your strategy from there (including KPIs to measure it). Evaluate the impact of what you are doing to build a sustainable, evidence based programme and make changes based on fact.
4.Build your working practices around health and mental health from the bottom up.
Go through all interactions and touch-points with your people and re-evaluate from the perspective of how you can use them to improve health and mental health. Now is the time to do something radical, not to tinker around the edges… Be bold.
5.Communicate, communicate, communicate.
The best way of supporting your people through uncertainty is honesty and openness. Allow 2-way dialogue and address individuals fears and concerns. This is even more important in our new hybrid, part remote working world. Share information on business and financial performance. Help people manage their expectations and create individual plans. Guide Line Managers in supporting teams and promoting mental health support services and strategies. Get everyone talking about how to support each other.
Please do get in touch with me if you need any advice.