After working as a psychologist for more than eight years, Jason van Schie founded his own company, People Diagnostix, in 2014. It is a health technology developer that provides psychology-based solutions.
Initially, People Diagnostix focused on personal well-being. Van Schie practiced as a consultant and conducted mental health training programs for enterprise clients. The more he spoke with employees who needed help, the more he thought about the ways employers could keep people safe from both physical dangers like carcinogens and mental health risks like anxiety or fatigue.
“It doesn’t matter how good your sleep quality is, or how much mindfulness you practice, if you’re working 14 hours a day, and if you don’t get along with your boss or co-workers, then your mental health is likely to suffer,” van Schie told Oasis.
After conducting experiments for four years, People Diagnostix launched its key product, FlourishDx, a digital workplace tool used by HR and safety professionals to proactively foster mental health among staff.
In an interview with Oasis, van Schie shared the importance of mental health management from the employer’s perspective.
The following interview has been edited and consolidated for brevity and clarity.
Oasis (OS): What’s the story behind People Diagnostix?
Jason van Schie (JVS): I started working as a psychologist in 2005. Around five years ago, I cut my teeth in psychometrics and then worked for a company as a contractor, providing training programs around fatigue, sleep, fitness, alcohol, drugs, and mental health. In 2014, I founded People Diagnostix with a focus on preventative well-being.
In 2018, we took in a seed investment to hire our own technology team and started the development of FlourishDx. The goal is to change the way that we practice workplace mental health. Instead of focusing on individuals, and making individuals responsible for their own well-being, we take into account the role of the employer.
OS: What are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about tools like FlourishDx?
JVS: People think all workplace mental health tools are direct-to-consumer, such as mindfulness apps or resilience apps. People think what we do is improve employee well-being and help people manage their symptoms. What we actually do is prevent people from becoming depressed or anxious in the first place.
People who are exhausted from work can’t do the relaxing activities offered by the company because they’re too busy at their desks. If you want the workplace mental health interventions to work, you need to focus on the root cause and show a commitment to improving work, rather than just giving people a subscription for meditation.
OS: How do you measure workplace mental well-being with digital tools?
JVS: We take an occupational hygiene approach. Similar to measuring the risk of hearing loss, we evaluate the risk level of distress caused by certain aspects of work—to what degree it makes employees feel stressed or overwhelmed, and the frequency or duration of the occupational hazard exposure. Specifically, we have employees do questionnaires from time to time and assess based on their responses.
We create a risk profile and develop an action plan based on the risk assessment, prioritizing the greatest risk. FlourishDx is a consultation tool designed for continuous improvement, whereas a lot of workplace mental health apps and interventions are often seen as one-off activities.
OS: How do you persuade companies that there’s a need to use tools like FlourishDx?
JVS: It depends on what’s driving the company. If a company is facing issues like a high employee turnover rate, using a tool like FlourishDx can increase productivity and engagement of its employees. This could help the company meet legal obligations as well as adopt international best practices.
Moreover, using a tool like FlourishDx can improve the enterprise’s image and potentially benefit its valuation. There is more of a focus on ESG, particularly in Southeast Asia. Investors in retail and wholesale sectors prefer to put money into companies that have sustainable workplaces.
OS: What are the major factors contributing to workplace mental health issues in Southeast Asia?
JVS: There’s pressure to achieve academic and work accomplishments in many Asian countries. Besides, companies in many developing countries, like India, are not legally accountable for their employees’ physical and mental safety as much as they might be in developed areas. If people have to lift heavy boxes, we actually need to think about redesigning the work and making the boxes smaller. It will take decades for the culture shift to happen.