Manchester-based mental health organisation TalkOut is significantly expanding its support for the UK’s business community through the addition of new immersive software and the launch of a wellbeing app.

The expansion plans, which will see the company grow by more than 300%, have been brought forward in order to meet the needs and unprecedented working conditions arising from the coronavirus outbreak.

Its new VR offering will enable employees to enter simulated environments via a headset and monitor and manage their responses to workplace circumstances that have the potential to impact their mental health.

The new wellbeing app will promote connection among employees and will enable businesses to directly support individuals’ emotional wellbeing as well as offering counselling via a specialist chat function.

TalkOut’s new digital solutions follow the company’s existing mental health training and consultancy programme and enables it to support businesses and their employees remotely during ongoing lockdown restrictions.

TalkOut was co-founded in 2019 by former HR director, mental health first aid instructor Jill Mead and now has a team of six experts qualified in clinical psychology, psychological therapy and counselling.

A MenTalk2 division was also launched earlier this year with a focus on supporting industries that are predominantly male dominated in order to support more men in the workplace.

The company’s expansion sees Mead rise to the position of CEO for the newly-created TalkOut Group, a team of 12 with plans to grow further in the coming months to meet demand, comprising TalkOut, the consultancy business, TalkOut Tech and TalkOut VR.

Mead said many employers were ill-equipped to address the mental health needs of their staff prior to the coronavirus pandemic and predicted the situation is going to get worse.

“Understandably, businesses have a great deal on their plate as they try to recover from this crisis but if they don’t seriously consider the mental health requirements of their people, they will quite simply have another crisis on their hands,” she said.

“Workers have been furloughed, many have had to juggle increased workloads alongside homeschooling, others are dealing with financial worries and some may have even lost loved ones. These are all factors that can have a huge impact upon our emotional and psychological wellbeing.”

“I’m immensely proud to be launching this digital provision which will enable us to ensure mental health is placed on the radar of responsible employers in the North West, and across the UK, by better equipping them to support their staff even if they continue to be isolated from them.”