VIEW: On automation and mental health

Whatever line of work we are in, mental health is one of the biggest issues we need to manage. Recent research produced by Mind showed that seven in ten workers have had poor mental health at some time in their lives, and the annual cost of poor mental health to employers is between £33bn and £44bn.

At the end of 2018, CII and Mind published a guide on managing mental health in the workplace. It stressed that many of the most important things that employers can do around mental health are small but meaningful gestures that make it easier for people to talk about their mental well-being. They include running awareness sessions and coffee mornings, nominating mental health champions, making adjustments in people’s working lives and giving people access to counselling.

The kind of mindset that goes with these actions is not only relevant to managing people, it is also relevant to the way we interact with customers. A recent study commissioned by the Big Lottery Fund on access to insurance found that a potential trigger for people with mental health conditions is dealing with scripted conversations. Research by the Institute of Customer Service has also shown that consumers don’t mind interacting with robots, provided it is not designed to fool them into thinking it is a person, for example by being programmed to say ‘uh huh’ while it is ‘listening’.

Automation could act to free people up to address the issue of mental health, transforming the work we do as insurance and risk professionals. If more people are available to undertake rehabilitation in the areas of disability and liability insurance, for instance, insurers could deliver huge benefits to consumers in terms of a faster and more complete recovery, whilst also delivering commercial benefits in terms of less money spent on disability claims.

This year, Legal and General published research that showed 29% of income protection claims were related to mental illness; and in 2017 it arranged 3,500 therapy sessions for people with mental illness, compared with 480 physiotherapy sessions for physical complaints – figures that show a shift in an issue that now deserves urgent attention.

This viewpoint was published in the January 2019 issue of CIR Magazine.

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