Jacobs launches mental health check-in tool to boost employee engagement

Engineering firm Jacobs has launched a free mental health check-in tool One Million Lives to help employees and the wider community better understand their mental health.

It was created as a result of the company’s Employee Assistance Programme lacking engagement, according to VP of health, safety and environment, people and places solutions Paul Hendry.

The process asks users to complete a check-in via a web-based app which asks questions on a sliding scale about signs of psychological distress to understand how users are currently coping, assess the early indicators of mental health challenges and get support much earlier.

It includes the global psychological screening tool the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10).

The tool also assesses early signs and proactive strategies, such as sleep, exercise and social media behaviours.

Despite being launched initially for employees and their families, Jacobs now wants the tool to be shared as widely as possible and has extended it to clients, partners and supply chains.

Speaking to HR magazine, Hendry said: “After speaking to HR, we found some employees were not using our Employee Assistance Programme as they were sceptical about anonymity. So we made a big drive to assure people and let them know that this data is completely confidential.

“When we did that initial check-in [on a small scale], we were getting comments back that it had saved lives. From a small cohort, I decided I wanted to do something bigger.

“Once I proposed it to the organisation and had buy-in, I sat back and realised that my kids and their employers don’t get what I get so thought, why not make it externally facing? I explained the why and how it would give back to communities - the Jacobs family doesn’t stop with a Jacobs badge.”

The questions include how much sleep you get, social media use and how much it impacts your mood and how you would react in a stressful situation.

After the 75 questions are measured, users get ­­­­a detailed report with seven key measurements including coping mechanisms, resilience and social networks.

Hendry added: “We built algorithms around these questions which went through a lot of testing to make sure we’re getting accurate reports. It’s not intended to diagnose a mental health issue but give wider visibility to mental health and how you’re tracking.”

All of the data is anonymised, which Hendry said was top of his agenda to make sure users would be comfortable enough to be completely honest.

And this top-level data is already showing trends across the workforce.

Hendry said: “There was a gender split of 50/50 male to female of those who have used the tool. But Jacobs has an employee split which is 70/30 male to female, which suggest perhaps that men within our organisation still need more encouragement.”

Jacobs launched a mental health matters programme in 2016 and now has 2,000 trained mental health champions across the globe, an 11% increase on 2019’s figures.

Hendry added: “We have 50,000 employees. If they all shared the tool with five people they know, we realised that one million lives could be potentially in our hands.”