12 billion workdays lost annually to mental ill-health but young entrepreneur thinks he has the solution.
Mental health issues in the workplace are costing the global economy over £9bn ($1tn) due to lost productivity say international agencies.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) are calling for “concrete actions” as depression and anxiety are causing employees across the world to miss 12bn workdays annually, according to two publications released today.
The guidelines offer suggestions to prevent mental health risks from developing and recommend practices for workplaces to adopt.
“The well-being of the individual is reason enough to act, but poor mental health can also have a debilitating impact on a person’s performance and productivity,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
The business case for an effective employee wellbeing programme is strong believes Charlie Winton, 28, the founder of OK Positive, a mental health platform for businesses which launched last November.
With it, he aims to help businesses save time and money in key areas such as sick leave, staff turnover, retention and on-boarding.
Good employee mental health boosts business performance
For too long, Winton says, employers have treated mental health the wrong way “as a rushed tick box exercise” that provides resources but does not achieve any tangible output.
“If you have a marketing strategy, or a sales strategy, KPIs, targets, investment into people, you want to get something out of it, right? Why is it not the same for wellbeing?”
The OK Positive blueprint quantifies the money and time that businesses save whilst using the platform.
With over 1500 users and growing, it provides a feedback channel for employees to communicate how they feel. This allows businesses to spot and understand how to address issues they face.
For example, if a company needs to cut back because it is losing staff but does not know why, the algorithm can identify the information and reasoning behind the losses.
The data also uses nudge theory and a hook model to encourage healthy habits in users. This saves businesses money by pre-empting problems before they arise rather than reacting to them with “plaster” solutions once already too severe.
Winton created his app in response to the “ever-growing epidemic of mental ill-health in workplaces” and his own experiences.
Working in recruitment, Winton found his workplace an area of huge stress that caused him regular panic attacks. The stigma surrounding mental ill-health deterred him from seeking help or alerting management who he feared might ignore or penalise him.
He is now concerned about the challenges this winter poses for the mental health of employees. The next six months and beyond will “pile on a lot more pressure” due to the cost-of-living crisis, insurmountable energy bills, high rates of inflation, and the war in Ukraine.