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Trust issues: creating happier, healthier workers with AI

By Chris Brook-Carter, chief executive of the Retail Trust Record levels of people in the UK are currently not working due to long-term sickness. According to… View Article


Trust issues: creating happier, healthier workers with AI

By Chris Brook-Carter, chief executive of the Retail Trust

Record levels of people in the UK are currently not working due to long-term sickness. According to the Office for National Statistics, numbers peaked at 2.8 million at the end of last year

And mental ill health is cited as one of the biggest contributors to this epidemic, with Department for Work and Pensions data showing more than two thirds of incapacity benefit claims are now for mental health problems.

You may have seen work and pensions secretary Mel Stride claim the solution may lie in talking about mental health less, after he said Britain’s approach to mental health is in danger of having ‘gone too far.’

Announcing new welfare reforms aimed at encouraging some people with mental health conditions back into employment, he also said: “There is a real risk now that we are labelling the normal ups and downs of human life as medical conditions which then actually serve to hold people back and, ultimately, drive up the benefit bill.”

But at the Retail Trust we believe it’s good to talk and when it comes to mental health, we should be talking about it even more. And that’s because we want to ensure people have the right support to prevent those ‘normal ups and downs of human life’ from becoming crises that then end up forcing them out of the workforce.

For example, more than one in three retail workers have told us they are considering leaving their jobs due to the severe levels of abuse and crime they’re now facing at work, underlining the continuing need for the industry and government to work together to tackle this issue.

Meanwhile a fifth have said they’re struggling to meet their monthly outgoings due to rising prices and might therefore benefit from more support from their employers on how to manage their money or secure financial aid.

And there could also be considerable financial savings for businesses who take proactive action to protect their people’s wellbeing in this way. Analysis by Deloitte has suggested poor mental health could now cost UK businesses as much £56 billion due to the number of people having to take time off, work while unwell or quit their jobs.

The Retail Trust works with more than 200 retailers to improve the wellbeing of the retail workforce and we know they want to continue to address the causes of poor mental health at work. But many of them also tell us they need more help to identify the right steps and prove the tangible value of investing in their people in this way.

That’s why we’ve developed our new ‘happiness dashboard’ which takes advantage of the latest developments in generative AI to make the link between workplace wellbeing practices and business success even easier for employers to prove.

It uses data from colleagues’ interactions with our services and wellbeing surveys to show how people are using the Retail Trust’s support, provides an overall picture of staff mental health and generates actionable insights to help employers address specific issues.

We can then use Deloitte’s analysis to demonstrate how much employers’ initiatives to improve mental health are saving the business, by calculating the financial value of reduced absenteeism or presenteeism, and increased staff retention.

We’re even able to show how much their efforts are saving the economy, by reducing the numbers of sick play claims or reliance on NHS services for example, using the government backed Wellby standard.

We’re proud to have developed this new platform alongside our technology partners BJSS and WorkL and in partnership with leading retail employers like FatFace and Next. It’s now empowering FatFace, Next, and the other retailers who have since adopted the happiness dashboard, to develop targeted initiatives that protect their people’s wellbeing, because they can show the value this provides to both the business and wider economy.

And thanks to this kind of evidence-based, actionable insight, we can also empower our colleagues to take charge of their own health and wellbeing, before they reach that point of crisis and feel they have no other option than to leave their jobs.


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