Moving Mindz: Helping businesses understand the mental health climate of their workforce

26 November 2021

While there has been a growing focus to better understand mental health and improve outcomes in recent years, COVID-19 accelerated that shift as the pandemic took a significant toll on society’s physical and psychological health. Moving Mindz has crucial task of studying the broader implications of mental health trends to help clients improve workplace practices and cultures.

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Welcome to another edition of Fast Five – our fortnightly series where we ask Victoria’s most influential and exciting business leaders five simple questions to unveil the challenges, successes, and behind-the-scenes operations of Australia’s leading institutions.  

Moving Mindz is a health and wellbeing organisation based in Melbourne, dedicated to connecting and engaging workplaces. By measuring, evaluating and benchmarking mental health and wellbeing, Moving Mindz is helping businesses understand the mental health climate of their workforces, allowing for better, more strategic wellbeing decisions. 

This week we had the pleasure of talking to Moving Mindz’s Co-Founder and CEO, Shane Bilsborough. Shane details how his firm helps tackle mental health challenges, how to navigate the additional hurdles caused by COVID-19, and what the future of mental health looks like for Australians.  

#1: What is your overarching approach to improving mental health outcomes at work and home? 

Mental health is an extremely complex issue, and when you add the COVID-19 pandemic layer on top, it becomes even more complex.  

Our approach is multipronged.  

Firstly, we work with our scientific team to continually understand best practice and identify some core aspects of health and wellbeing that, if improved, can have a significant positive impact on mental health. Our scientific team, principally our mental health advisor, Dr Karen Hallam (who has extensive expertise and specialist knowledge) and our Research Collaborator, Professor Anna Peeters and her team from Deakin University, provide not only the basis for the ethical approval that governs the way we collect data and the design of our process, but also provide further skills and knowledge to enhance our value proposition. 

Through our joint efforts, we have identified engagement and social connectedness as two key areas of focus. To this we have added other aspects of wellbeing such as mindfulness, resilience, gratitude, laughter, sleep, nutrition, movement and gamification; all in bite-size pieces. 

Our second approach is ‘measure and evaluate.’ In order to most effectively understand a client organisation, I often ask any HRDs or CEOs:  

  • How can you improve the mental health of your staff if you don’t have any baseline data to work from? 
  • How do you know your mental health program is working and, if so, how much has it improved mental health?  
  • Have you tracked this year to year? If not, then why not?  

We measure baseline mental health, wellbeing, loneliness, social connectedness, mindfulness, resilience, gratitude and sleep. We also measure these aspects post-program. We look at what the strongest predictor of poor mental health in your organisation is. This gives organisations the data they need to make informed decisions. 

Our third approach is to pool all data and publish our findings. The publication of de-identified data (as a requirement of the ethics approval) then enables a better understanding of the science involved. Our first peer review publication is due in the January edition of Current Psychology (data shows the Moving Mindz platform improves depression/low mood by 9.8 per cent, anxiety by 18.2 per cent, stress by 12 per cent and wellbeing by 7.1 per cent), with several more in scientific papers in train. We want to be contributors to the mental health space. 

#2: Much has been made of the impact of COVID-19 on the population’s mental wellbeing, particularly those affected by lockdowns or the sickness of loved ones. How have people or organisations changed the way they use your services as the pandemic has progressed? 

Moving Mindz data shows baseline depression, anxiety and stress across Australian businesses worsened by 20 per cent, nine per cent and 10 per cent respectively, with mental wellbeing declining by 10 per cent from 2019 to 2020/2021.  

Loneliness has also increased in the same period of time. 

The timing of these trends and the difficulties caused by COVID-19 allows for an assumed correlation.  

Whether prompted by the ravages of COVID-19 or otherwise, organisations are starting to understand the need to get direct mental health measurements and not just rely on mental health claims data. By providing mental health benchmarking across business units, states and even sites, organisations can now use this data to strategically assess which areas of their business need more mental health support than others.  

With workplaces now fragmented to working from home, working in the office and a hybrid of both, organisations are also using our services to engage and connect their staff.  

#3: How has COVID-19 changed your own philosophy around tackling mental health in the workplace (be it yours or your clients’)? 

When we observed some of the lockdowns in Europe very early in the pandemic, and speaking to people who were not able to leave their houses, we certainly had to rethink what we were offering organisations and their people. 

We needed to be even more cognisant of social connectedness, loneliness, and a worsening of mental health. Our philosophy grew to focus on connecting people and then engaging them. We started to involve not only employees but their work colleagues, family, friends, people they lived with, and even their pets. We started to measure social connectedness during the pandemic and found that, as social connectedness increased, other variables such as mental health, gratitude, and wellbeing also improved. Our most significant findings have been in men, where, when given the opportunity to connect and share, their mental health and wellbeing improved in the vicinity of 20 per cent and more. 

This focus has seen a significant impact of improving workplace engagement, no matter what the mode of work is, and large improvements in mental health and wellbeing. We were able to show this across industries from truck drivers to office workers. Some organisations undertaking our programs experienced nearly 90,000 pieces of engagement during the pandemic, while on average people contribute 47 pieces of engagement pertaining to connecting and sharing and developing a wellbeing community. 

The impact of this strategy on mental health showed the program was able to yield similar if not better results during the pandemic. 

#4: With restrictions easing, how are you helping businesses navigate work flexibility prompted by COVID-19, and any anxieties people feel reintegrating back into the office or social life? 

Although restrictions are easing, workers are choosing a hybrid working model, working from home and/or the office, hence there is still a real need to keep organisations connected and engaged. 

The Moving Mindz platform is online (app or desktop), which means we can facilitate workers connecting and engaging with each other no matter where they are in the world. This helps businesses because workers no longer need to be face-to-face to enjoy the benefits of mental health and wellbeing programs. It also informs employees that the organisation cares about their mental health and wellbeing; it is not an instance of out of sight, out of mind! 

With workplaces re-establishing new norms, there is an anxiety that can be placated by a program that stimulates re-engagement with one’s work colleagues.  

#5: What mental health trends or focuses – pandemic-related or not – do you see emerging in the future? 

This is an enormous issue with many complex inputs. Yes, the ongoing anxieties and concerns over the pandemic and its possible re-emergence, as we are seeing with the coming European winter and a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases with many nations instigating lockdowns, is significant. However, so is the economy, ongoing geopolitical tensions and a number of other contributing factors. How this translates to the global business world and Australia is unclear, but companies need to be ‘transilient’ – a term coined by Professor Anna Peeters – meaning we/businesses need to be flexible in thinking and operationally be able to move from home to work to hybrid and back again at short notice. 

There is also the fact that the best way to prepare to meet these challenges is to secure your own affairs as best you can. Organisations are made up of its employees. This means organisations should continue to ensure there is a strong focus on their employees and their mental health and wellbeing.  

The last two years have demonstrated how quickly our world, and our understanding of what is our normal, can change. Change requires resilience, a sense of security and the strong mental health and wellbeing of the individuals. We strongly believe organisations should pursue a course that enhances their workers’ ability and capabilities to be resilient and meet the changes. 

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