Employees are stressed, anxious and urgently need help with mental healthcare. Wysa’s report ‘All Worked Up’ showed a third (45%) of working 16 – 65-year-olds experience depression or anxiety symptoms – twice the UK estimated figure.
Wysa’s report also showed more than half have not spoken to a healthcare professional; the inability to self-diagnose severity, time constraints, embarrassment, or not wanting to be prescribed medicine continue to prevent access to care. This isn’t just bad for the individuals suffering. It’s bad for business.
Despite the corporate world’s best efforts in breaking the stigma and offering a range of well-being support, people rarely want to share their mental healthcare needs with HR. We found that only 1 in 10 (13%) employees would admit they were struggling at work, and two-thirds when experiencing poor mental health have taken time off but lied about why, citing physical health or taking paid time off.
Globally, employees are reporting feelings of sadness and depression. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, some 42 per cent of employees globally have reported a decline in mental health. Wysa’s latest report shares insight from one of the largest observational studies of its kind, examining data from over 150,000 AI chatbot conversations that 11,300 employees across 60 countries had with Wysa.
The Global Employee Mental Health Report from Wysa found that over 33% of employees worldwide reported feeling ‘not okay’ at the start of the workday. This number kept rising throughout the workday, reaching its peak at 40% towards the end of the workday.
All in all, 75% of employees reported low to moderate energy on average throughout the day. These findings correlate with the low productivity expected when people are depressed. As depression symptom severity goes up, so does the per cent productivity loss; there’s a 15% productivity loss for those with mild symptoms, 27.4% for those with moderate symptoms, 32.5% for those with moderately severe symptoms, and 43.4% for those with severe symptoms.
The Mental Health and Employers Report published in 2022 by Deloitte estimates the cost of poor mental health to UK employers to be between £53 billion and £56 billion, with presenteeism, the cost of not performing at our best due to ill health, making up the majority of this significant cost.
The cost of poor mental health at work doesn’t stop there. Employees with depressive symptoms are absent for an average of 15 days a year, and this can go up to 34 days in case of severe symptoms. Mental health concerns such as stress and depressive symptoms also account for five per cent of total voluntary turnover, and replacing a single employee costs approximately 21% of an employee’s salary.
During the workday, we found that a high percentage of employees are expressing feelings of stress (36%) and sadness (38%). A stressed and sad workplace isn’t a healthy and happy one – and it’s certainly not a productive one. Economists at Warwick University carried out a number of experiments and found happiness made people around 12% more productive. We also found that of the people that ask for crisis support, 4 in 10 reach out during the work day (41%).
Research shows that 75% of employees require mental wellness and support and 77% of employers offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which provides employees with support for personal issues and psychosocial distress. But the barriers to access, stigma, concerns around confidentiality, and limits placed on support make people delay reaching out for as long as possible. Only 7% actually take it up. So there’s a gap. And it’s a costly one.
More than three-quarters (76%) of employees reached out to Wysa when they were feeling low and “not great” and needed psychosocial support. This is extremely positive, especially compared to the take-up and utilisation of alternative support mechanisms like EAP. Employees turn to Wysa when they need instant mental health support and to alleviate distress in that very moment.
A new approach to employee mental health support is needed. Given that 47% of employees on average report symptoms of depression at onboarding, and that Wysa users show reduced depression scores post-usage, we’ve found that offering everyone conversational AI as the first step of care acts as a preventative, encouraging people to open up much faster and build mental resilience. Conversely to what you might expect, we found that offering unlimited support actually reduces costs by around £470, based on a study of one of our customers with 50,000 people.
Our research into global employees’ use of Wysa showed that when users first joined, 83% of the most expressed emotion words on Wysa were related to anxiety, depression, and stress. But upon continued use of the app, 52% of users demonstrate a trend of expressing more positive emotions while interacting with the app. These users went from communicating predominantly negative emotions like “frustrated” and “depressed” to expressing more positive emotions like “happy”, “calm”, and “confident”.
We know that an AI-led model, with anonymous and clinically safe AI conversation as the first step in care, allows for early and effective intervention, and has the benefit of being there any time of day or night. In the surging post-COVID mental health landscape, most employers still offer limited mental health resources geared towards moderate to severe symptoms, which causes people to delay in seeking support. The significant cost of lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover can only be solved by creating early access to scalable and unlimited support.
So what can you do to support employees mental healthcare?
1. Look at the data.
Understand what the key issues are in your organisation so that you can develop the best strategies for supporting people in your business and know what solutions to provide them. If you don’t know what the need level is in your organisation, we can anonymously screen employee populations of over 250 people for you, using Wysa, at no cost.
2. Have a list of resources available to direct people to.
Look at not just ‘softer’ support such as meditation or mindfulness but clinically validated support for everyone, to ensure that no one is left behind in getting the mental healthcare support they need. Meet people where they are – phones and online resources are great for people as they are used to using them, and the tools can be discrete.
3. Make the economic case for your business.
Estimate the potential return on investment on providing unlimited support versus the potential loss of revenue using the average rate of sickness, low productivity and turnover due to mental health concerns.
Jo Aggarwal is the founder and CEO of Wysa, a global leader in conversational AI for behavioural health. Wysa has helped improve mental health for over 5 million individuals through 500 million conversations across 90 countries and has received the AI Award from The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK and Breakthrough Device Designation from the FDA in the USA.
Jo has been recognized by World Economic Forum as one of the Top Innovators of 2022 and received the 2022 Implementation Leadership Award for USA from the eMental Health International Collaborative (eMHIC) alongside Wysa cofounder Ramakant Vempati.