Mental Health Workplace

AXA reveals UK’s attitude to mental health tech in the workplace

AXA Health Tech & You recently ran a roundtable event to reveal findings of their latest survey, which covers both the trends in the personal use of health technologies, but also new perceptions of the use of health technology in the workplace.

Pixel Health was in attendance as a panellist, discussing the issues of monitoring mental health in the workplace alongside experts from AXA, 2020Health, MIND, NHS and LiveSmart.

The survey results have now been released, so let’s take a look at what the findings show. For reference, 2,000 people were surveyed, and of these, 41% said they had experienced symptoms of mental health conditions in the workplace, and 46% of these have had to take time off work due to their symptoms.

Free tracking increases likelihood of participation

When asked if they would be willing to wear a mental health band or device to track signs of mental health symptoms (such as stress, anxiety, depression etc.) that was provided by themselves, people responded saying they wouldn’t be interested (31% likely, 61% not likely). However, when the same question was asked, but this time with the device being provided for free from the employer, people changed their minds – 51% responded ‘likely’ and 40% ‘not likely’.

Willingness to share information increases with free devices

In a similar vein, when asked if you would share the information of the tracking devices (to build employee health and well-being strategies) people responded negatively if the equipment was purchased by themselves, with 65% saying ‘not likely’. However, when the employer is paying for the kit, employees are much more willing to part with their data in exchange – ‘not likely’ responses dropped to 46% as 45% of people said they would be willing to share their body data.

Workplace discrimination and employers knowing too much are significant concerns

AXA asked those who responded that they would not share information with their employer why this was the case. The top two responses – given equally by 69% of those asked – were that they’d be worried about workplace discrimination and they don’t like the idea of their employer knowing details of their health and lifestyle.

There are ways to increase people’s willingness

Chiefly, if you pay your employees to wear such devices, 51% are going to be more likely to share their information with their employer. However, a 9% of people still wouldn’t budge – their data is their data. Anonomysing data helps too, but only slightly; 50% of people said they’d be comfortable if the information is anonymised, but 43% continue to be not so pleased with the idea. It’s worth noting this response was only given by those who said in previous questions that they would not be willing to share their data.

Data may not be the issue; employees reactions matter a lot

Of those surveyed who said they had experienced symptoms of mental health conditions in the workplace, 48% of people had gone to their employer to discuss the problems. This leaves a majority of 52% of people who said nothing at all. This may be because 25% of people who do speak to their employer experience negative responses, with these 25% stating their employer did not support or help manage their symptoms in the workplace. Thankfully, 71% did say the employer helped.

The findings of the survey are fascinating. What it highlights is there are different groups of people with different approached to their mental health. For some, sharing data on their mental health isn’t a big ask, for others, it is a red line. And while many people responded to say employers are supportive, if one in four are not getting the support they need from their employers, is it any surprise that people are concerned with discrimination from their employers knowing too much about them?

Technology can help massively towards at least tracking mental health symptoms. Whether this is through a device that people know about and are entirely aware of, or through technologies that allow for passive tracking, thus gaining a more honest picture (but with real issues around data privacy, especially with GDPR coming up). However, if employers want to get access to this data to help improve their mental health and well-being strategies, then open and honest communication (as well as potentially paying people!) is going to be the only way forward.

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