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Improving mental health – data is the answer

By Dr Serra Pitts – Scientific Director for 87%

According to a recent BITC report, 61% of employees said they experienced mental health issues where their work was a contributing factor. Add the fact that only 30% of managers know how to support their staff with a mental health challenge, and we can already predict the impact this will have on HR. 

In fact, the total cost to employers of mental health problems among their staff is estimated at nearly £26 billion each year, which is equivalent to £1,035 for every employee in the UK workforce. These figures imply that a small organisation employing 50 workers will typically incur costs of around £50,000 a year because of mental health problems among its employees.

Fortunately, the need to address the wellbeing of staff is becoming increasingly known, still more awareness and understanding is needed. Only with insight around how your people interact with their environment (and how that affects their performance) can you engage with these challenges in a meaningful way.

Progressive people-centric companies are realising that they must use data to understand their workforce better. Low unemployment and a culture of mobility have given people choice and it’s harder than ever to retain top talent, especially amongst millennials and incoming generations. Companies must now turn valuable people data into insights that identify the factors which underly a person’s decision to leave. 

The power of mental wellbeing data

Traditionally, HR data has centred around KPIs that measure factors like employee engagement, satisfaction, absenteeism and turnover, and yet little is known about what drives those factors. For example, what is the difference between the person who copes with a challenging environment by rallying the team and persisting with resilience, and the person who chooses not to come in at all? The answers lie in new metrics that identify individual strengths and difficulties in your people, through questions that have not previously been asked in the workplace. 

With the right level of insight, HR teams can use people data to better understand and evaluate the business impact of people, support leadership’s decision making in people-related matters, and improve the overall wellbeing and performance of employees. There is evidence that this has a significant impact on a company’s ability to achieve its strategic aims, and that’s what makes wellbeing data so valuable.

How to get ahead of the game

If you’re open-minded about analytics and are willing to learn about the value of mental wellbeing data, then you’re on the right track. And if you bring in a partner that is analytically savvy, then you’ll be ahead of the game. That’s where 87% comes in: we are people data experts, and we use analytic techniques that produce the mental health and wellbeing insights that help you understand how and why your workforce behaves the way it does. Rather than merely assessing the symptoms of low engagement, we’ll help you identify the causes.

We start from the premise that “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”. We take a holistic view that captures data from 35 areas of mental wellbeing, correlate that with user behaviour and your HR data for a comprehensive look at the strengths and challenges within your workforce.

Everything we do is focused on understanding the individual and providing them with a unique set of resources, guidance and solutions unique to their mental wellbeing profile, including their attitude to their own mental wellbeing. We then provide your business with a unique company profile, allowing you to invest in the areas of greatest need and reap the greatest return on your people investments.

What level of insight is possible?

Have you ever wondered what motivates your people? What brings them down? What proportion of your workforce experiences anxiety on the job, and how many are hampered by feelings of depression? Do your people get along with each other, and if not, why not? How will they cope with sudden change and are they resilient? Which of your people are the most creative, and which have the highest levels of emotional intelligence? 

Access to this level of insight can be broken down by gender, age-group, job role and location to give you a unique understanding of the needs and wants of your people. That means uncovering factors that businesses rarely see, and new opportunities to train your people to cope in ways that reduce burnout, sickness absence and turnover.

We’ve already identified some surprising challenges for our clients:

  • One company was concerned that work-life balance was their primary problem. In fact, the young average age of their staff showed that concerns around body image was significantly reducing their self-confidence in ways that negatively impacted their performance.

  • Another company found that 35% of their male staff reported being nervous or tense most of the time, whilst only 24% of the female staff felt the same.

  • Another company found that a 10% increase in overtime resulted in a 2.5% decrease in productivity for men aged 45-55, but not women.

How to get the most impact from your wellbeing data

Findings like these are specific to each business and vary across sectors. Performing a Gap Analysis in these areas will help you understand where the strengths and challenges lie with your people, and which evidence-based interventions will have the most impact.

Our best practice approach to wellbeing involves three important steps:

1) Accurately assess mental wellbeing and gather data that will predict outcomes for your people and your business;

2) Use that data to understand which evidence-based strategies will help your people tackle barriers and live more satisfying and productive lives; and

3) Use people data to make intelligent decisions that will address cohort-specific workplace issues.

Even though leaders recognise the power of leveraging unique people data and analytics, recent research from Sage shows that 92% of companies are struggling to get the strategic insight they need about their people. And though 83% of HR leaders agree that all people decisions should be based on data and analytics, only 37% are actually doing so.

If you would like to know more about 87%, please visit

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