Long-term ill health is considered to be a large contributing factor to economic inactivity in the UK, according to the Office for Nationals Statistics (ONS), as workers take time off to deal with their problems. And a sizeable portion of those are related to mental health.
But now Rethinkly, a self-described “virtual world platform”, thinks its solution can help employees get through their issues in the workplace.
Its office software is already being used at organizations such as the NHS in the UK and IBM, and citing its own research that 81% of employees “feel like miscommunication is common in the workplace” – and 1-in-3 feel they can’t show their true feelings in this setting, it claims its platform can make workers feel more comfortable expressing themselves, and perhaps improving collaboration and productivity in turn.
The aforementioned research conducted by the ONS found that the amount of people taking time off work increased by nearly half a million between 2019 and 2022, and separately, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) found that last year, 60% of poor health absences were related to mental rather than physical issues.
This shows we are in the midst of “possibly be the worst mental health crisis in decades”, according to Rethinkly. It attempting to address this, Rethinkly makes some bold claims about its new platform, suggesting that it will “transform how managers, therapists, life coaches and others can resolve workplace and mental health challenges, leveraging real-world experiences, in the context of virtual freedom.”
It also claims it “uses a combination of insight from practitioners, academia and case studies leading to one of the most sophisticated tools for addressing communication issues worldwide.”
By creating a virtual world, Rethinkly aims to eradicate “all real-world references” to elicit neutrality. Workers can then create avatars of themselves that can emote for them, which the company claims can provide “enough detachment for reflection and transparent communication.”
This separation from reality appears to be the key, as the virtual world empowers people to communicate and express themselves in ways that they would feel uncomfortable doing in the real world.
Images are also used abundantly in Rethinkly, to help people express themselves in ways that they can’t or don’t want to with words. The NHS has also used the platform to help patients who find it hard or impossible to use words to communicate as well.
Rethinkly also says that the software can be “used under expert direction – which may be appropriate for particularly complex issues including the mental health sector”, and that “users can be taught how to use the software within minutes”, ensuring that everyone can get benefit from it.
Rethinkly also notes that VR is being researched in this context too, perhaps indicating the possible future integration with the technology.
And if justification were needed for firms to take case of their employees mental health, Andrew Jackson, co-founder of Rethinkly, notes that “there is a direct payback both financially as data shows spending £1 will get them £5 back, and in growth by unlocking innovation and creativity.”