It’s Time to Disrupt Psychology in Organisations

Psychological health, data and meeting the challenge to organisations

When I was small, I read the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes.  The Emperor was tricked into thinking his thread was visible only to the smartest people in the land. No one dared say that to their eyes the Emperor was naked (even though he actually was naked) until a small child spoke up, unencumbered by what others thought of him.
 The truth is, I have been designing and delivering organisational psychological health interventions for decades without really having hard data to tell me if what we were doing was enough.  It’s not enough. And there are 3 things I’ve been unable to ignore:
  1. Mental health issues are increasing faster than societal awareness or our efficiency in addressing them (33% of some sectors have a diagnosable disorder, with 61% of these never receiving professional support and only 3% on average using their EAP).
  2. Stigma, lack of awareness and confidentiality are primary impediments to seeking help.
  3. Early intervention and self-management is the only viable, sustainable way to manage psychological health in the workplace.
In spite of the extensive physical health checks we undertake, Australians don’t undergo psychological health checks unless they are unwell and present to a GP.  Medicare’s Better Outcomes program, EAPs, diversity policies, Beyondblue and media campaigns have made brilliant, accessible steps forward in treatment and de-stigmatisation. We introduced mindfulness, resilience, stress management and other “rest and digest” programs.  Except, without hard data about an individual’s vital signs it is still a sophisticated game of “Pin the tail” on the proverbial Donkey.
We’ve not had a Garmin for organisational psychological health. With all the importance of a State of the Union address we have reviewed Worker’s Compensation claims, EAP use, presenteeism and absenteeism, which is highly correlated to mental health and yet also a little like diagnosing chicken pox by waiting to see who was spotty and scratching.
This week the Vital team and I are proud to launch VitalPulse as part of a world first executive stress trial.  We developed it to provide a low cost, online assessment (taken privately and confidentially) that;
  1. Provides personalised, easy to understand insight into psychological health
  2. Assists with customised strategies to support prevention, early intervention and high performance in psychological health
  3. Creates a map for leaders to navigate towards their organisations’ psychological well-being.
PwC’s ROI on Mental health in the workplace is a rigorous, powerful example of the benefits of addressing organisational mental health.  (Visit: Heads Up ROI Calculator to find out the ROI on Mental Health Expenditure for your  organisation type.) There exists incredible potential to amplify the ROI exponentially by dropping a Google earth pin on exactly who needs what information and strategies.
PwC’s head of Digital Disruption, Kate Eriksson*, believes VitalPulse is a compelling proposition for a range of reasons. 

“80% of the world’s data has been created in the past 2 years. It’s time we were proactive in leveraging wearables, assessing the crowd, and being proactive with what it tells us. A positive mental health position breeds confidence and curiosity to perform in this new environment, re-enforced by data”.

 As a start-up, Eriksson reminds us that the government’s innovation and science agenda aims to solve problems like this with new thinking.  

“Disruption occurs when there is new value created, disintermediation of cost or time, and scale.  VitalPulse has progressed into disruption by proactively providing people their own insights and comparisons, removing the cost barrier and providing access to better data and analytics.”

 After 19 years of working with individuals and workplaces to become psychologically healthy, productive and, let’s face it, happy – I am relieved we can provide a tool that delivers personalised insight and strategies for individuals – which, for organisations, culminates in a dashboard of workplace psychological wellbeing.
 I know it is easier to stay in the crowd as the Emperor passes by, doing what we have always done.  But we can do better and it is an exciting time to exponentially change how we approach one of our organisations’ (actually, our country’s – most debilitating health issues). For a trial of the approach for your own or teams’ wellbeing we would love to hear from you.
*Kate Eriksson has a prior relationship with Vital Conversations.  She was not involved in the preparation of PwCs Heads Up report  on Mental Health.
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