Consultant at Journey One and Mental Health Advocate
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Bridging the mental health gap with technology

As employee wellbeing is becoming more of a focus with the accounting industry, technology is accelerating the change by offering new ways to provide support and enhance communication.

28th Apr 2021
Consultant at Journey One and Mental Health Advocate
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Mental health

Mental health has always had a huge stigma around it. Workplace stigmas around mental health often prevent those struggling from feeling comfortable opening up to employers about their experiences.

But where employees can share their stories, they can find the support needed and offer support in return.

A study done by the Institute of Chartered Accountants England and Wales revealed that nearly a third of accountants (30.4%) suffer from mental health issues. And more than half (51%) admitted that depression and anxiety leave them dreading going to work.

It is important for leaders to gauge employee wellbeing as this can often dictate the standard to which they complete their work and their general engagement with the team.

Technology is influencing the focus on employee wellbeing by providing employees with digital tools to take control of their mental health and wellbeing. It is also diversifying the manner in which leaders can keep up-to-date and assist with the wellbeing of their team.

Filling communication gaps with technology

Given how much the world has changed in the last 18 months, it is not surprising that the focus on bridging the gap between mental health and technology has come to the forefront of business owner’s minds. 

Businesses across the globe have moved to a digital, remote working environment on short notice, with many businesses not having the infrastructure to be able to do this successfully, and with no understanding of how to manage their teams remotely. 

During my first accounting job in 2013, we used a team development platform called Officevibe to gauge employee engagement, satisfaction, and gather feedback from employees about the business. Officevibe is still being used by companies such as Xero, Apple and Disney.

Officevibe enabled the company’s partners to have more detailed conversations with the team to provide the right level of support. It was my responses to the Officevibe surveys, alongside my physical behaviour and appearance, that enabled them to identify that my mental health needed addressing urgently. 

Slack forums for employee wellbeing

In another organisation, alongside using Officevibe, we had a Slack channel specifically for mental health, where the globe team could connect (anonymously, if desired) to share concerns, experiences, resources, and anything they needed to get off their chest. 

As part of World Mental Health Day, my team created a curated forum for the Australian team using Slack. We enabled them to anonymously submit their stories via a Google Form. 

If they wished, they could submit their name with their story, but we focused on empowering the team to have the dichotomy between protecting their identity and putting their name to it. Throughout the week in the lead up to World Mental Health Day, we posted their stories, alongside other useful resources. 

We enabled the Australian team to read and comment on these stories and resources in a facilitated environment. The major focus was on educating our team how important it is to understand mental health, and to help them to understand what their colleagues are experiencing.  

There have also been a number of apps released which are used to assist in managing and improving mental health. 

I particularly love these free apps:

Bridging the gap

Bridging the gap starts by being open to using new technology to assist in understanding how your staff are going. This can be as simple as a form that you send out once a month, to something more automated such as Officevibe, which can go out weekly. Equally, managers can set up recurring catch up sessions with each of their team members using the company's email, video call or calendar service to check in with them, assess how they're coping and offer them half an hour to catch up, open up, vent and feel connected.

It can enable you to have constructive conversations with your team, and to provide them with the support they require. You can also provide your team with a list of apps, like the one mentioned above, to assist them in starting their journey towards better mental health.

It’s always good to ask your employees what forms of support they would benefit most from, which apps they’d like access to, and which forms of communication work best for them.

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By TaxTeddy
29th Apr 2021 08:35

With respect to the author I would like to give an alternative point of view.

First, I should say that I started work in the late 1970s so my work experience predates the computer age by some considerable margin.

While I fully accept that the workforce these days is probably more prone to mental health issues than ever before, and thank goodness that employers have an enlightened point of view on this, I would suggest that technology is partly to blame.

Just to choose a few points which come to mind, in the pre-computer work environment we had the benefit of -

clearly defined and stable duties
reasonable job security
a slow pace of change
low technical competence required

So while there have always been stresses related with work I think they were at a lower level than they are currently.

But perhaps the biggest pressure on the current workforce is the "always on" mindset where employers and customers (and social contacts) expect an instant response from all channels of communication - and my goodness aren't there a lot.

Personally, I keep a lid on this by not engaging in social media and just channelling clients through email and phone calls to the office (not a personal mobile) which means I can step away from work when needed.

But without the daily noise of technology I perhaps wouldn't need to think about that.

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