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Positive thinking: How Unmind helps employees manage their mental health
Taylor had been promoted into a leadership role in a management team tasked with managing high levels of absenteeism and turnover while retaining talented workers and hiring new ones.
“I became quite fascinated by corporate wellness,” he says. “It’s a mutually beneficial scenario for an organisation to look after its people – employees benefit through having an environment to thrive, and the organisation benefits because they’re firing on all cylinders.”
Determined to implement a strategy that would allow the NHS to better support its workforce, Taylor sought a solution, in the process turning one room in his house into something that “resembled the notes scene in the film ‘A Beautiful Mind’”. It was then that his question unexpectedly changed.
“I’m not saying I had the lead character’s mind, but my walls were plastered with Deloitte and Gallup reports that I’d printed off and scribbled on,” he says. “I went from wondering how to help the NHS look after its workers to thinking why other organisations weren’t doing the same thing.”
Taylor formulated an “incredible business case” for a solution, and after scouring the landscape to make sure his idea was an original one, the clinician-turned-entrepreneur launched Unmind alongside three cofounders in 2016.
Based in central London, Unmind currently partners with enterprises with more than 1,000 employees, and counts Square Enix, John Lewis Partnership, William Hill and Made.com among its customers. Once partnered, an organisation’s entire workforce gets 24/7 access to Unmind’s tools, training and assessments which are available on mobile devices and desktop.
The company also works with partners to create bespoke content that uses language that Taylor says, “resonates with people in that organisation from a cultural perspective and helps lift a metaphorical fog that exists around mental health services”.
The company’s tools are clinically validated, meaning that users are assigned a unique profile score on an ‘Unmind Index’ that correlates with “gold standard” mental health assessments. Unmind determines where users are on a mental health spectrum and directs them to appropriate services – such has employer assistant programmes, private medical insurance or mental health advocates – if required.
Crucially, by offering digital support at the point of need, Taylor says that Unmind is able to help employees proactively. It also allowed the company to scale the product internationally and help more people while “keeping it affordable”.
Proactive versus reactive
Unmind’s proactive approach is its key differentiator and critical in helping people maintain positive mental health, explains its founder, who designed the platform to address three specific frustrations he encountered working in the NHS.
“As a therapist, every time I sat down with someone, I wished I’d met them months before and that shouldn’t happen,” he recalls. “The earlier you get to someone, the better the health outcomes and the less the person’s going to suffer.”
Taylor’s second frustration lied in people not being able to access information especially helpful to people with conditions such as mild anxiety and depression. “Cognitive behavioural therapy, positive psychology or mindfulness isn’t rocket science,” he says. “People shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get it.”
The women of Unmind
Taylor’s final bugbear was a lack of focus on prevention. Unlike dental health, which uses positive messaging and promotes daily brushing by displaying photos of pearly white teeth on packaging, he criticises mental health for using negative language and “black and white images of people holding their heads in their hands”.
“Mental health is incredibly cool and really amazing, and something we should nurture and love,” he says. “That’s where it belongs, and if we start talking about it in that language instead of focusing on mental ill-health then we will get people to engage in prevention.”
In addition to using positive language, “talking about coping, calmness and happiness rather than stress, anxiety and depression”, Unmind directs users to relevant learning and development content that can be taken in bite-sized chunks. Additionally, a social component lets users praise their co-workers for behaviours that have a positive impact on mental well-being.
“We know there are certain behaviours that are really good for mental well-being, so let’s get people promoting it to one-another to get them more entrenched in organisational culture,” says Taylor.
Instead of promising organisations specific measurable benefits like ROI or reduction of absenteeism, which are “incredibly difficult to prove”, Taylor says that Unmind can help break stigma around mental health, which leads to positive outcomes.
“An employee that’s feeling depressed might not tell their employer that – they might say they’re taking a day off because they have a cold,” he says. “However, if the organisation uses Unmind, that person may feel that it is enough of a safe space for them to state the real reason – that they’re feeling depressed.
“It’s about understanding that there are data outputs as a result of rolling out Unmind, but we’re not going to promise X, Y and Z. Instead, we’ll work with organisations as partners and understand what that data means to them.”
Unmind recently raised £3 million investment from Felix Capital to improve the product, and Taylor says that he was “blown away” by the VC firm’s support.
“The most important thing for us is that we can make a tangible difference to somebody’s life around mental health,” he says. That’s what gets us out of bed in the morning – we’re driven by that purpose – so we needed to ensure that any institutional investor who came onboard understands and supports us around that. We’ve always felt that with Felix and his team.”