How tech can help businesses handle mental health issues

Mental health is as important as physical health, and workplaces need to do more the ensure adequate systems and processes are in place to help staff

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Work-related stress can be a major contributor to mental health issues

The days of offering free yoga sessions as a way to show concern for employee wellbeing are gone. In recent years, we have seen organisations that are serious about the mental health of their workers shift towards digital tools, which, in this connected age, make them much more likely to succeed. Technology is democratising support tools, making them widely accessible, as well as being a cost effective and efficient way of supporting the workforce in dealing with mental health issues.

Additionally, the focus shouldn’t just be on physical health. At my own company, Remente, we work with management teams so that staff can use our app to better understand their mental wellbeing. This can vary from being more aware of goal setting and how to properly organise your working day, through to knowing how to stay composed and relaxed in high-stress situations. Having a tool in your pocket to do just that makes it easy and instant, helping employees better understand their mental health.

The companies that use our app have seen an increase in productivity in their workforce, as well as a surge in morale. Staff like to know their employers care, and the incorporation of digital health platforms into day-to-day working life is a strong indicator of a compassionate company.

But Remente is just one part of a rapidly growing market for technology focused on mental health and wellbeing, with an ever-expanding wealth of online resources and web chats, and a glut of popular apps offering features like mood tracking, goal setting, guided meditation, and online counselling or self-improvement courses.

According to the World Health Organisation, as many as 450 million people globally are suffering from mental illness

So, how can businesses create a proactive and open culture around mental health? According to the World Health Organisation, as many as 450 million people globally are suffering from mental illness, with mental health conditions being the number one cause for sick leave. This is why it is so important that organisations provide their staff with proactive insights and tools to help them manage their mental wellbeing. While many businesses have done a lot to ensure that the physical health of their employees is at the forefront, not enough has been done to put mental wellbeing on a level with the physical. Companies should also adapt their working practices to help those suffering from mental health issues. Some of the areas organisations need to look at include:

One of the things a company can do when it comes to mental health is to consider prevention techniques, to stop staff from developing mental health illnesses rooted in stress. For example, encouraging your staff to take regular work breaks, whether a few minutes away from the screen, or taking a full lunch break in order to reduce stress levels. It is also worth thinking about success, in terms of how it is measured and how people are recognised for it. Acknowledging important milestones and celebrating achievements will help staff feel motivated and less stressed. Lastly, encouraging staff to begin using digital tools, such as the Remente app, can go a long way in helping them look after their mental health, as well as aiding them in identifying and managing the areas of their life that cause them to experience stress.

Open conversation
There is still a taboo around mental health, especially in the workplace. Mental health charity Mind found that 30 percent of staff felt they couldn’t speak to their manager about stress or their mental wellbeing, which suggests that an essential thing to do is to create an open environment. If managers are noticing that their staff aren’t behaving or performing the same as normal, they shouldn’t hesitate to ask them how they are and to make it clear that there is an open culture, where discussions are welcome. Open discussion can prevent any issue, whether stress related or not, into escalating and causing discomfort for the employee and the office as a whole.

Most companies will have a dedicated person trained in giving first aid, but no one who is capable of recognising and helping with symptoms of mental health conditions. It is worth making sure that you train one or more people within the company to be able speak about mental health and provide guidance. There is a vast range of organisations to choose from for training.

Not only should you have trained people among your staff to recognise mental health conditions, but you should also have a support system that will be implemented, should someone suffer from a mental illness. Make sure that those you train know about the strategy and are ready to implement it, should they need to. The strategy could be as simple as providing the employee with flexible working hours, reducing their workload, or distributing some of their responsibilities to others.

Returning employees
If you do have a member of staff who took some time away from work to work on their mental health, you should properly plan their return to the workplace. Make sure to speak to them and ask how you could assist them to feel comfortable and confident about coming back to work. Whether it is adjusting their hours to attend therapy sessions, having someone they can speak to at work, or providing them with flexible hours, the plan needs to be thought about before full working hours commence.

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