Technology, Productivity and Mental Health

Modern life is impacting our mental wellbeing, reducing our resilience, happiness and ability to cope not only with change but seemingly with life itself. Increasing numbers of people are finding themselves in a shocking place, with 60% of employees having experienced a mental health issue because of work. Shortfalls in mental wellbeing are estimated to be costing business on average £1,350 per employee, or £38bn a year, but equally importantly in an economy driven by knowledge, innovation and creativity, it risks the very lifeblood of modern productivity and market edge.

There are new factors which suggest that we will need to go a good deal further than supporting people whose mental health suffers. First; Most of the business programmes to date whilst often good, are still largely reactive. In other words the initiatives only kick in when people start to present mental health issues in the workplace, are geared to dealing with symptoms and do not address causes and their prevention. Second : Mental Health is considered a stand alone topic, disconnected from business’s mainstream activities and certainly not part of a wider productivity and people equation. Solutions arrived at in such a narrow way can hardly be considered sustainable. Third : As business introduces artificial intelligence and big data in search of greater productivity gains, it will transform work, as people may well have their every move monitored, increasing stress levels.


Context

Mental wellbeing should be at or near the top of our agenda. 91% of managers agree, and feel that what they do affects the wellbeing of their staff. However only 58% of employees feel that their line manager is genuinely concerned and for people who are suffering from anxiety and depression the picture becomes a good deal more bleak, with only 4-5% of people feeling that they can even raise these issues with the business they are part of. It highlights that for all our willingness to talk openly about mental health, people who are impacted the most feel the most unsure that their condition will not only be taken seriously but will also be ‘acceptable’ in the prevailing culture of their organisation.



In fact 11% of people who have had a mental wellbeing issue at work, resign. 15% were put through a disciplinary process, 10% were sacked or forced out, and 10% were moved job with chances of progression stymied. Given this background we should also reflect that some people’s minds and lives are being seriously messed up, some are left unable to function, perhaps in a way we have not seen before.Indeed we are seeing a surge in the number of suicides related to work. It is now the leading cause of death for men under 50. In a survey of 12,000 people, about their financial robustness, people with significant financial worries were 7 times more likely to “feel depressed and unable to carry on”. As responsible employers how do we approach such topics in a way which starts to prevent these issues from occurring? It is undoubtedly complex and difficult to do.


What we aim to do

We will combine the consideration of technology, productivity and mental health issues. Whilst this will be more complex it will non the less force the research project to grapple with the realities and inevitable pressures associated with todays workplace, economy and society.

  • We will use findings from our study to develop new ways of delivering productivity gains and improving people’s mental wellbeing.
  • We will explore test and create intervention and prevention strategies with the aid of business’s, social innovators, and health professionals.
  • Our approach will include business process, culture, relationships, leadership, work design and new technology, as well as economic and social factors.
  • We will produce a series of independent recommendations in a report for wider use in business, government and society.
  •  We will run a summit sharing our findings with a wider audience and building a movement for change.
Photo credit for this page to John Carlisle, Camille Orgel and Jurica Koletíc.

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