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Sligo firm assessing the impact of workplace wellbeing measures


Báirbre Meehan.

Báirbre Meehan.

Báirbre Meehan.


A new Sligo company is the first in the country to deliver measurable mental wellbeing (MWB) improvements for large organisations.

The launch of PAUSE comes at a time when remote working and the return to the office is causing huge issues in our workplaces and the pace of life is leaving people struggling to find the right work-life balance.

Burnout is rife as people emerge from two gruelling years of Covid-19 restrictions and companies across the country – from the IT and professional services to engineering and MedTech sectors — are facing huge difficulties attracting and retaining employees.

For employers and senior HR leaders, remote working is making wellbeing even harder to monitor, while existing employee assistance programmes are failing to deliver sustained and measurable improvements.

PAUSE is the first company to not just implement wellbeing practices into workplaces but to measure their impact.

The PAUSE approach to managing mental wellbeing in organisations is based on five years’ research during which founder Báirbre Meehan worked with GPs, psychotherapists and word-of-mouth referrals to support and monitor mental wellbeing improvements in over 100 people with low mental wellbeing.

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The research found that short-term coaching intervention led to a 70 per cent improvement in collective MWB with the positive mental wellbeing maintained at the six-month and two-year review stages.

PAUSE is led by Báirbre Meehan, who has been in senior leadership for 25 years and is a trained executive coach with a Master’s in Business and Executive Coaching.

As managing director of medical device company Ansamed, she managed the process by which the company was acquired by US-based Vention Medical in 2011.

She was the 2021 winner of the Empower START pitching competition for female entrepreneurs based on her work with PAUSE.

Báirbre, who has worked in senior management roles for multinational organisations across multiple industries, undertook a research project into MWB after seeing first-hand the impact that mental health issues were having on employee performance.

Deloitte research from 2020 found that poor mental health among employees costs UK employers between €50bn and €53bn each year, an increase of about €7bn on its 2017 report. According to Deloitte, this increase was driven primarily by a rise in presenteeism – coming to work despite poor health and underperforming.

It is costing businesses an average €2,346 per year per employee – with the following three sectors facing the highest costs: finance, insurance and real estate; information and communications; professional services.

Separately, 41 per cent of the 3,614 UK workers surveyed in ‘The Mental Health at Work Report 2020’ said their symptoms of poor mental health had either been caused or worsened by work during that year.

Recent PAUSE research – carried out in 2021 — revealed that senior HR leaders find it increasingly difficult to support employee MWB because:

Hybrid and remote working have made identifying employees struggling with MWB very challenging

It is difficult to convince employees to seek MWB support

The level of energy expended on promoting Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) far exceeds the benefits to employees and the organisation

Organisations are unable to measure the extent of their organisational MWB issues and the changes in MWB trends over time

PAUSE, which is based at the Innovation Centre at the Atlantic Technological University Sligo, offers a range of measurable mental wellbeing services to the workplace; some directly to employees and others supporting the organisation to create a culture of MWB.

Báirbre Meehan, founder and CEO of PAUSE, said: “Covid-19 has had a significant impact on people’s stress levels, which were already high before the pandemic, but are now at an all-time high.

“The pace of life and working life has escalated to such an extent that people are finding it difficult to cope.

“The phased return to the workplace is causing a large amount of anxiety for varying reasons and it is believed that one third of people are struggling to some degree.

“A lot of people are finding it hard to draw boundaries between work and home. The ‘Right to Disconnect’ from work was introduced as a direct result of the impact this inability to ‘switch off’ is having on people’s mental health.

“In addition, the global pandemic caused people to re-evaluate their attitudes to work-life balance.

“This makes employee retention and attraction a critical issue for organisations, and one they are struggling to manage.

“This is a really complex area but PAUSE has developed a provable and measurable system of improving employee mental wellbeing, which has a clear positive impact on business results and employee retention.”