As part of Mental Health Awareness Week which takes place between May 13-19, we’re revisiting our HeadBox Connect podcast with Nick Taylor, co-founder and CEO of Unmind, a proactive workplace mental health platform which offers scientifically backed tools and training for happier healthier and more human organisations.
We spoke about how Unmind combines scientific research with technology to provide a range of preventative methods for their clients and how they are increasing confidence awareness and understanding of mental health in the workplace and beyond.
Ann-Marie: Can you explain to our listeners what Unmind is and how you had the idea?
Nick: So Unmind is a workplace mental health platform that offers a preventative approach. We empower employees and organisations to look after their mental health in a proactive preventative way.
What we also do is we enable organisations to understand how well their people are. Obviously, if you’re a large organisation of 100,000 people you can aggregate and anonymise that data and give unprecedented insight to organisations in a way that they’ll never know who anyone is but they’ll understand what the trends are in the workplace that they need to be addressing which is really helpful to them.
If you broke your leg and I gave you the choice to fix it now or in three months time you’d definitely say now because you would avoid the pain. It will impact on your life and would be harder to fix it if you wait and that is exactly the same for mental health. But what happens because of lack of resource, high stigma and various other reasons people don’t get to the right care at the right time. And that makes it much harder to help them get better. It also makes their life immeasurably worse during the time they’re not well.
So that was the first frustration. The second one was the information around helping people to get better with mental health. It’s pretty straightforward a lot of the time and therefore people shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get to it. It should just be readily available to people to use exactly when they need it. So that was the second frustration, the third one and this is the main one really is that we don’t focus on prevention. Did you brush your teeth this morning?
Ann-Marie: I did. Lucky for you!
Nick: And even if you didn’t you wouldn’t tell me because there’s a stigma around you not doing proactive dental healthcare and the dentists in the world have done an incredible job at getting us all to engage in preventative healthcare. And it’s true to some extent with physical health as well now. Most people do some sort of exercise and if they don’t they’ll make a joke about the fact they don’t because they recognise they should. But with mental health, we’re quite a long way behind around our understanding of what prevention means and I think the mindfulness movement’s done a lot of good around this but of course, mindfulness is just the tip of the iceberg.
Ann-Marie: How do you combine scientific research, methodologies and best practices with technology?
Nick: In healthcare, you need what’s called a multidisciplinary team to provide gold standard healthcare. So what that means is you need your psychiatrist, your psychologist, your social worker, your psychiatric nurse, your nutritionist or whoever it might be to come together with their different collective lenses and formulate a response to help someone.
What’s really interesting about digital mental health is that actually, you need a multidisciplinary team 2.0 because now we need to work on a way of building a shared language between psychiatrists and data scientists, between designers and psychologists, between academics and people who are part of the tech world. So that’s very interesting as a challenge.
Actually what is very very important is that we’re respectful of the subject. This is not a paradigm shift here. We’re not just throwing away the history of mental health and starting afresh with the buzz of a new startup. It’s very much respectful to the history of the subject. So we work with top academics, top clinicians, top experience advocates around subjects of mental health and we work with them to design the content on our platform.
What’s important to us is that it’s based on the evidence so we can continue to contribute to that evidence and we’ll be publishing stuff in due course which is exciting.
Ann-Marie: How do you encourage businesses to embrace issues with mental health and get on the front foot with it?
Nick: What we want to do is bring to life some of the stats that are out there because if you read around the subject you can find Deloitte reports which would show that it’s costing the UK economy a lot of money or that 1 in 4 people at any time had mental ill health or 1 of 6 people in the workplace has mental ill health. I find that stats like that which are pretty generic are quite hard to relate to.
If you actually try and bring those to life in something like a slider we say well we’re not a six-person organisation so the one in six stat doesn’t really mean anything to me. This is really prevalent and we need to be doing something around it.
Ann-Marie: You’re going through a very exciting period of growth and there are lots of exciting things going on at Unmind at the moment. But what is the biggest challenge you face?
Nick: I think focus is really important and there are so many fun, exciting, interesting things that you could do at any given time and as you know when you’re a fast-growing company people come and talk to you and want to collaborate but we know we have a job to do.
If time were no object you’d say yes to everything but the reality is we know what we are doing and we want to get this right and that requires serious focus and the ability to say no to an awful lot of stuff. So I think that’s probably the biggest risk, I want to make sure we always remember to say no.
Ann-Marie: And what have you guys got planned for the next year or beyond?
Nick: Lots and lots. For us, it’s about making sure we continue to do what we’re doing really well and making sure that we’re supporting the clients that we work with. We work with incredible organisations so making sure that we’re doing everything we can to enable people to look after their mental health is the number one priority.
On more of a big picture level, it’s about becoming the de facto provider in preventative mental healthcare in the workplace on a global basis.
Ann-Marie: What are you doing for your team in terms of mental health?
Nick: Culture is a really important thing and we think about it a lot and it’s something that we’ll always continue to think about a lot. We’ll never get to a point where we’ll think that’s done and put it aside. We try really hard to bring people into the business that we think share our common values and we have a very diverse team but people who really understand how we try to operate and how we live by what we speak about.
We have a really beautiful place to work that is focused on well-being. I’m obsessed with plants so our office has lots of plants which I think is really good for mental health. We have office dogs, we have daily mindfulness or movement exercise that those who are free at the time go out at lunchtime and spend 15 minutes together doing exercises.
We’ve just done some work around putting down the values of the business as well because I think one of the interesting things from my perspective and the other founders is that when you’re just a few people and have a new person coming in you can spend some time with that person and you can then build a shared relationship and understanding and actually as the business scales it becomes increasingly difficult to sit down with everyone to the same extent that you used to.
Ann-Marie: My final question for you Nick is what is the one piece of advice that you would give to somebody who’s thinking about starting a business?
Nick: I’m really worried about giving advice like this because I think it’s one of the most bizarre things when you start in the business. Everyone’s got advice for you. It’s extraordinary but some of it is incredibly helpful. An awful lot isn’t very helpful and helpful information is information that is personalised to you. It’s been personally the most incredible thing I’ve been involved with workwise and I’m so glad that I took the leap.