Properly investing in employee wellbeing is more important than it has ever been. The last year has seen both employers and employees needing to adapt and be responsive in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Working from home, balancing caring commitments, experiencing minimal socialisation and facing either a hugely increased, or decreased, workload, has meant a genuine need for employers to support employees further.
Nobody would sensibly expect an organisation to make a major investment in new personnel, equipment or management systems without being able to measure their success. Why should it be any different therefore in respect of health and wellbeing at work?
New sources of stress and anxiety
Wellbeing at work, and particularly mental health at work, has been a topic of discussion for some years now. However, the impact of the continuing pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic have compounded the intensity and unearthed new sources, of employee stress and anxiety.
Some research had been undertaken in the US to try to quantify the amount of time and cost employees are missing due to COVID-related stressed. The model they developed is based on a US survey of 1,200 people, 38% of whom reported their mental health had been negatively impacted by COVID. They indicated they had approx. 30 minutes of lost time per day, per employee, due to being stressed by COVID. In financial terms, based on an average salary of $86,647 per year, this meant that employers lose $5,795 per employee per year or around 7% of the cost of each employee.
New tools needed
Organisations the world over have been re-evaluating – or evaluating for the first time – their approach to employee wellbeing and asking themselves what tools we need in our toolkit to support our colleagues. This is not just a case of ‘how do we react to things, but how do we proactively support people in being well and productive at work.
As the workplace wellbeing toolkit has been expanded, many organisations have invested in digital solutions, often to enhance their existing service through providing immediate and remote access alongside their traditional face-to-face employee support, typically offered through their HR teams or external partners. SilverCloud Health has been one such provider, successfully delivering world-leading digital solutions (including support for resilience, stress, sleep, as well as anxiety and depression) for organisations in the public and private sectors, including in the US, Ireland and the UK and has been measuring its success.
Whichever geography you examine, the return on investment has been impressive. Whether seen through the lens of user satisfaction rates, recovery rates from conditions such as anxiety and/or depression, or rates of improvement for key mental health conditions, SilverCloud’s report card makes for positive reading. We know too that having a positive, proactive engagement plan with approachable, regular and consistent communications with employees, is a key driver of success with digital solutions.
SilverCloud’s digital programmes have been deployed in a range of settings, including large-scale and complex organisations including with the NHS, Bupa, Health Assured and St Luke’s University Health Network in the US.
In the UK, in June 2020, npj Digital Medicine published peer-reviewed research amongst NHS service users by SilverCloud Health that showed that treating anxiety and depression with such therapy delivered strong clinical improvements and recovery that over a 12-month period were 91% likely to be cost-effective. It was the largest study of its kind worldwide, undertaken with Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. It found that more than half of those with a diagnosis of anxiety and/or depression recovered after three months.
The experience of NHS staff using SilverCloud showed that users generally returned to the platform after their first visit and spent on average around 20 minutes using it each time. They split their time fairly evenly across the four areas: resilience, stress, COVID-19 and sleep, with stress and resilience being slightly more popular topics. Users were asked to provide feedback that showed they valued the ‘practical’ nature of the programmes offered, the ‘excellent’ content and its ease of use.
The findings also underline the benefits of long-term outcomes and cost-effectiveness of digital mental health interventions through, for instance, SilverCloud, being part of clinical care, including stepped care models. This sort of return on investment and the favourable view taken by SilverCloud customers when comparing the cost-effectiveness of digital treatment compared to face-to-face treatment is worthy of further note.
Measuring success and building a strong return on investment case in mental health treatment is not always easy to do but the evidence shared to date tells its own encouraging story. The comprehensive business intelligence available reporting on utilisation as well as outcomes helps employers understand the mental wellbeing temperature of their workforce.
SilverCloud is proud of its programmes and their clinical robustness, with over 17 years of clinical research behind it. But most of all, it is proud that its programmes work. They help users recover when they are unwell and help others to maintain and support their mental health in a positive way. It not only works according to SilverCloud, but the evidence allows it to meet the continuing pressures of the pandemic and beyond, meaning comprehensive and accessible wellbeing and mental health support for employers and employees alike.