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Silent sickness: a case study on improving employee wellbeing in the age of absence

news,technology | 4 min read

‘I’ve got the flu’.*
*‘I’ve thrown my back out’.*
*‘I’ve got food poisoning’.

Some sick days are straight forward. Catching a cold or coming down with the flu is commonplace. Many of us “call in sick” simply by sending a quick text message, or for the Gen Zs among us, a Whatsapp.

But what happens when our ‘sickness’ isn’t obvious or easy to talk about? What happens when what we really need to say is:

‘I’m stressed’.*
*‘I’m run-down’.*
*‘My anxiety is through the roof’.

We’ve all been there. From saying yes to another deadline we know is unrealistic, to taking on yet another project we simply don’t have time for. Ignoring the SOS signals our bodies emit under stress comes at a painful cost to our personal health, and with a hefty price tag for employers.

The Hidden Epidemic

Mental health concerns are now theleading cause of sickness absence, costing UK employers alone a monumental £45bn a year. COVID-19 aside, we’ve been living with a global epidemic way before handwashing was trending on twitter.

Understanding the multifaceted relationship between employee wellbeing and mental health related absence isn’t straight forward. Most employers have a limited understanding of wellbeing across their workforces, and many are at a complete loss with how to tackle their mounting absence rates (I’ll give you a clue, it’s not fruit baskets).

Absence is only one piece of the puzzle. Due to COVID-19, any predictions on what the future of the workplace might look like are now vague at best, and obsolete at worst. With half the global population now working from home indefinitely, there is mounting pressure on employers to provide wellbeing solutions that are scalable remotely.

How can employers cut through the venn diagram of emotional and physical wellbeing support to begin addressing mental health related absence? Whilst also riding the wave of the ever-evolving remote workplace?

Shedding Light on improving employee wellbeing: A Case Study

One of the UK’s largest pharmaceutical companies was recently facing similar issues. Improving employee wellbeing is high on their agenda, and they had a number of initiatives already in place.

However, the business was still seeing high absence rates and the crippling costs that came with them. Furthermore, their remote workers were being left with fewer benefits compared to those working onsite.

This is when the BioBeats app was introduced to its workforce. Over 700 employees downloaded the BioBase app and wore the wearable device for 4 months, between September and December (2019).

The employee wellbeing programme allowed individuals to learn more about their mental health by tracking data such as heart rate, mood, sleep and activity. Then to help employees improve their wellbeing, BioBase provided mindfulness tools as well as personalised digital therapeutics.

For the first time, the HR team was able to see aggregated data and insights on the health of their employees. This ranged from physical wellbeing, such as the average amount and quality of sleep; through to the percentage of people who are likely to be suffering from mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety.

Data Speaks Louder Than Words

In 4 months, zero absences were recorded from stress or anxiety in those employees who had been using BioBase; despite a 226% increase across the rest of the workforce.

BioBase reduced absence costs by 54%. The return on investment? 87%.

The crux to tackling mounting absence rates lies within understanding how your people actually feel, from a physical and mental perspective. There’s no magic formula when it comes to improving employee wellbeing, but with data, it is possible to make

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