With 4 in 10 (41%) of the British workforce having experienced symptoms of a mental health condition in the workplace, the fourth annual AXA Health Tech & You State of the Nation online survey conducted by YouGov, looked at the willingness of workers to adopt health technology in the workplace to help support employee wellbeing. For employers, health tech can provide useful information to help reduce workforce absenteeism and increase productivity.

The survey revealed that if an employer is willing to supply a device, 45% of employees are comfortable to share information gathered if it helps with employee health and wellbeing strategies.

Out of those not feeling comfortable sharing information on mental health with their employer, the majority (69%) are worried about workplace discrimination or do not like the idea of their employer knowing details of their health and lifestyle. However, if the information was anonymised, half (50%) would feel comfortable sharing this data with their employer.

The Health Tech & You Survey results showed mixed perceptions of sharing mental health issues with employers: Over half (52%) of those who have experienced symptoms of a mental health condition in the workplace haven’t discussed this with their employer. But of those who had talked to their employer, the majority (71%) have been supported or helped to manage their symptoms in the workplace.

Representatives from NHS England, the mental health charity Mind, academia and business leaders recently discussed these findings at an AXA Health Tech & You Roundtable: Managing Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace, Can Health Tech Help? The lively debate covered topics including the emerging trends of health tech in the workplace and how it can be used for early detection and treatment.  The issues surrounding data sharing and confidentiality were also brought to the table and the challenges of overcoming fears of stigma and discrimination.

Key points that arose from this discussion included:

  • Trust. A culture of trust should be established in the workplace with regards to wearing personal health tech to monitor mental wellbeing.
  • Support. Health tech should be used to complement existing  face-to-face support for employees not replace human interaction
  • Holistic Approach. The health and wellbeing of individuals should not just focus on the workplace environment, but take into consideration their wider lifestyle outside of the workplace that may contribute to mental wellbeing.
  • Implementation. Tech to support mental wellbeing should be implemented on a personal basis and involve senior management discussing openly their commitment to support those with a mental health condition.
  • Accreditation. Any health tech to be used should be accredited to ensure quality, efficacy and safety for employees.

Suzanne Scott, HR Director at AXA PPP healthcare and a Roundtable panellist, said: “In my experience line managers want to support people in their teams who experience mental health issues. Technology opens up a new way to help both the employee and the manager broach the subject and having the relevant data is always a helpful way into a conversation.  At AXA PPP we are looking at ways we can introduce technology to help us take the next step forward in supporting our people’s wellness.”

Julia Manning, Founding Director 2020health and Roundtable Chairperson, said: “Familiarity with smartphones and other consumer tech means people already have tools in their hands to think about supporting their wellbeing. Some good points were made in the discussion about the need for leaders in the workplace to use and champion evidence-based digital health before it can be seen as ‘something for me’. Given the huge unmet need in society for mental health support, if we can get to a place where it is normal, beneficial and safe to utilise digital mental health tools, then I would hope this would build confidence in self-management of wellbeing.”