Kooth Work attended the 2023 Watercooler Workplace Wellbeing event. Here is what we learned from talking with wellbeing leaders and hearing about what is happening in their organisations.
We had several members of our team on the stand, including interns and workplace digital mental wellbeing experts. We talked to employers about their challenges and plans, and the support and insights we offer. We also helped provide clarity around the expanding world of digital mental wellbeing and how virtual options fit as part of an employer’s framework.
48 hours of talking about workplace mental wellbeing
Our team of workplace digital mental wellbeing specialists held conversations with HR and wellbeing leaders from a wide variety of industry sectors, with company sizes ranging from 100 to 100,000 employees. Here are 15 things we learned from talking to these wellbeing leaders:
15 things we learned in this time:
1. Employers need more data on workforce mental wellbeing
Employers needed more data to gain a clearer understanding of the mental wellbeing needs of their employees, to help set meaningful objectives, to inform prevention initiatives, and to establish metrics to measure the success of their wellbeing programmes. We were delighted to be able to provide information about our Flourish benchmark tool and ongoing Qwell regular reporting, and to share information around how to use reporting and data insights to improve workforce mental wellbeing.
2. Workforce wellbeing leaders are looking to extend support beyond the workplace
Our recent Missing the Mark report identified the need for employee mental health support to be easily accessible beyond the workplace and working hours. We see this regularly in the usage trends from our digital mental health platform in the reports we provide to our clients. As an example we see 58% of employees using our support options outside of their hours, so we were glad to share information on how our Qwell support platform can enable employers to provide their employees with continued access to our professional mental support when they get home.
3. Employers are looking for support options to extend to employee families
We had a few Reward and Benefits specialists come to our stand who wanted to talk about support options for the families of their employees. Interestingly, they commented that they had struggled to find mental wellbeing support for partners and children under the age of 16.
Employers were also keen to ask about what support could be provided to the families of their employees. Our Flourish tool, used by employers to benchmark the mental wellbeing of their workforces, has consistently identified a strong link between an employee’s personal life and worklife, when accessing wellbeing.
Given our 22 years of experience in supporting the mental health of children throughout their school years and now as parents and employees, we were able to provide information on our Kooth Work + Home package, designed to support the partners and dependents of employees.
4. Employees who grew up with Kooth had good things to say
Nothing feels quite as good as when an employee comes up to you and shares their personal stories of how your service helped them through different stages in their life. Many of those children who had access to Kooth at an early age through their school are now in employment, and some even work in HR and Wellbeing roles. It was really nice to meet some of these people at the event.
5. Choosing a digital mental wellbeing partner is hard when everything looks the same
We learned how difficult it is for HR and Wellbeing leaders to understand the differences between the multiverse of digital wellbeing offerings. How do you tell the difference between a general wellbeing or mindfulness app, a survey tool, online community, and a credible BACP-accredited platform with the ability to access professional support in minutes?
There are now so many wellbeing offerings and platforms that all sound the same on the surface. It is not until HR and Wellbeing leaders are able to take the time to talk to the different providers that the differences become more apparent.
6. We need a joint approach to support financial and mental wellbeing
Financial wellbeing was obviously high on the agenda. Financial anxiety has been a top 3 presenting issue for employees using our platform for the past year. Employers talked about the steps they were taking around financial wellbeing support, and were asking what we are doing to support the emotional impact of financial pressures. Both our employee and family packages have emotional support tools to manage financial anxieties, an online community, and the ability to talk with a mental wellbeing practitioner within minutes.
7. The main cause of employee absence is mental health reasons
According to GoodShape’s data, 15.3 million UK working days were lost in Q4 due to mental health reasons, at a cost of £2.2 billion in one quarter alone.
We had conversations with Wellbeing leaders around how to become more proactive and reduce this number. We shared how our reporting provides visibility on the factors that are at play in the workforce today and are likely to cause mental health absences. We also talked about how they can provide their employees with prevention, early intervention, and quick access to professional help to tackle this.
The informative sessions and awards were exceptionally well attended.
8. Mental Health First Aiders MHFAs need mental wellbeing support too
We also helped answer how we work with Mental Health First Aiders. We noted how many employers had implemented an EAP and MHFAs as the first stage of their journey into employee mental wellbeing support. The wellbeing leaders and MHFAs we spoke with were interested in what to do after they had put in these measures to support employees in crisis.
There were interesting conversations we had around this subject, including how to support the mental health of your MHFAs, and how to overcome the challenge of employees not feeling comfortable seeking help from a colleague who is their MHFA.
9. We spent a lot of time explaining how we are different to an EAP
We got asked the question "Are you an EAP?" many times. We have a different purpose to an EAP and operate in the prevention and early intervention side.
This did highlight to us that there is much confusion around what EAPs (Employee Assistance Programmes) are, especially as it has become such a ubiquitous term in the workplace wellbeing space. We were regularly asked how we are different from an EAP. We learned we need to do better in differentiating ourselves more clearly in this space.
Kooth works as part of an ecosystem of support an employer can provide to their workforce. We are here to make access to BACP-accredited professional mental health support immediately and freely accessible by the 95% of staff who don’t qualify for the support available in your EAP, and the 71% of employees who want anonymity when exploring their mental health. Employees can be signposted into our platform from your EAP and other options, and also refer users out to the different types of support provided by your EAP.
10. Wellbeing leaders want to move from a crisis response to prevention model
Most employers have invested time and money in EAPs, MHFAs, and reactive solutions as their first steps. Now there is a strong will to develop a more proactive approach.
As an organisation that has focused on prevention and early intervention, it was heartening to speak with HR and Wellbeing leaders actively seeking to move towards a prevention model. The greatest hurdle appears to be around how to build a business case for investment and educating other parts of the business.
Industry has long understood that the best way to prevent a physical injury is to have highly effective safety, early detection, and prevention plans in place. The same is true for mental health and this is what we offer – early risk detection reporting, prevention strategies, and early intervention tools with immediate response.
11. Wellbeing leaders are thinking about ecosystems of support options
We heard “mental health support is not a one size fits all approach” many times over. We spent time talking with wellbeing professionals about how there is no silver bullet and that whilst we can cover a lot of requirements, Kooth Work, our tools, and platform are part of an ecosystem of support that needs to be designed around the needs of your specific workforce.
12. Absence and leavers remain key indicators of mental health.
Employers commonly use absence, attrition, and the number of people accessing emergency support as the KPIs. We talked with employers who wanted to shift their focus using our reporting to predictive data and mental wellbeing KPIs.
13. Employers want their in-person, F2F, and digital employee support options to work together
We talked to HR and Wellbeing leaders who were currently looking at both professional face-to-face support and counselling options, and digital support options that could work together. We happily guided them to our Qwell support platform and demonstrated how it is used alongside their in-person support to provide inclusive choices and to broaden the support coverage of their workforce.
14. Frameworks help wellbeing leaders
Across the sessions and the discussions, there was a keenness amongst visitors to gain clarity around wellbeing and how to build an inclusive wellbeing programme. We noted that most wellbeing frameworks that talk to mental wellbeing focus on EAPs and MHFAs. However, the best one we have reviewed so far is BITC’s mental health commitment and toolkit. We still feel there is a need to demystify digital support options, and discuss how to build a data led approach, how to address the prevention gap, and how to support employees beyond the workplace and outside work hours.
15. We are all playing an important role in changing workplace culture
After 158 conversations, it became clear that the people who work in workplace wellbeing are passionate about making a difference. Service providers and the HR and Wellbeing leaders working in organisations are coming together to change workplace culture.
Overall, we were overwhelmed by the warm reception to our service. We are grateful to everyone who took the time to speak with our team, and shared their experiences and workplace wellbeing challenges with us. We’re also thankful for our customers who dropped by to see us at the event and support the work we are doing to help employers understand, support, and improve the mental wellbeing of their workforces.