Why Companies Are Supporting Emotional Wellness In The Workplace

From Lisa Wirthman

One of the biggest drivers of an expanding healthcare industry is wellbeing – a focus on healthy minds and bodies that is rapidly changing consumer behavior. According to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), the global wellness market, valued at over $ 4 trillion, is growing almost twice as fast as the global economy.

One of the biggest drivers of an expanding healthcare industry is wellbeing – a focus on healthy minds and bodies that is rapidly changing consumer behavior.

Courtesy Modern Health

Contributing to this growth are wellness innovators like Modern Health, who are using technology to help employers improve their mental health. Built on the recognition that our technologically advanced culture is hit by an epidemic of loneliness and mental health issues, the startup is working with companies to reduce the stigma of asking for support.

And this emotional wellness support is urgently needed: According to Erica Johnson, co-founder of Modern Health, seven out of ten millennials suffer from some degree of emotional burnout.

“Millennials are the largest sector of the workforce today, and they also have a higher rate of depression than any other generation before them,” said Johnson.

This is both a challenge for employers and an opportunity to make a difference, she added.

Modern Health’s Emotional Wellbeing Platform enables companies to reduce burnout, prevent revenue, and retain talent, while influencing society’s view of mental health support more broadly.

Change culture

In today’s technology-based culture, digital devices are constantly making employees accessible to both work demands and social pressures, leading to stress and burnout, said Alyson Friedensohn, CEO and co-founder of Modern Health. A lack of real human connection – as we communicate more through email, SMS, and social media – also increases loneliness.

“People can experience an emotional roller coaster ride of happiness, jealousy and sadness on social media in less than 30 seconds,” she said. “We are constantly overloaded.”

One of the greatest challenges arising from this technology-based cultural change? Mitigating the effects of all these inputs on our mind: Humans have not yet developed the mental resources to deal with sensory overload.

“Our brain did not develop as quickly as technology,” said Friedensohn. “We haven’t created new neural pathways to be resilient.”

Prevent burnout

Friedensohn compares employee burnout with a technological problem: low battery life.

“When your phone is down to 5 or 10 percent, they’ll do whatever they can to find a way to plug in the device and charge the battery,” she said, adding that people are also using their mental health resources need to recharge when they feel drained.

Employees who feel burned out at work often blame their workplace: three out of four employees say their work is very stressful and research shows that they are considering or actively looking for a new job. This is a problem for companies that value a stable and skilled workforce.

Emotional wellbeing in the workplace can also cost employers up to $ 500 billion a year, the company reports.

To reduce and prevent burnout, employers can take top-down measures to create a workplace culture that encourages employees to raise their hands and ask for help, Friedensohn said.

At the same time, they can also offer a bottom-up solution like Modern Health that allows any employee to access this help when needed.

No immunity

Understanding the difference between mental health and mental illness is important for employers and employees, Friedensohn noted.

Mental health encompasses our emotions, thoughts, and feelings, as well as the ability to solve problems and overcome difficulties. Experiencing concerns in these areas is not necessarily the same as experiencing mental illness, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“In the course of a lifetime, not all people will suffer from a mental illness, but everyone will struggle with their mental well-being or have a challenge,” reports the association.

Regardless of whether an employee is dealing with the birth of a new child or the loss of a parent, the need to seek support within a company and in society in general can be normalized, Friedensohn said.

Personalization of support

Even for employees who are not struggling, practicing mindfulness – or being aware of the present moment – can help reduce stress while increasing productivity and engagement at work. For example, one study found that using a meditation app can increase both emotional well-being and perceived workplace control among office workers.

Modern Health’s platform also offers a wide range of mental health support, from fighting depression to improving mindfulness to improving communication skills to improve professional development.

Based on research showing that millennials respond best to personalized solutions, the platform creates an emotional wellness foundation for each employee and then creates a personalized program to meet the employee’s current needs.

The platform also allows employees to communicate with a personal health coach in a variety of ways, whether they are on the phone, texting, meeting digitally, or even connecting in person.

Although the founders originally intended to create a purely digital platform, they found through user feedback that many employees had the opportunity to hold face-to-face meetings.

“We have found that people long for human connections,” said Friedensohn.

Insurance companies like Harvard Pilgrim Health Care – a New England-based not-for-profit health company – also emphasize the importance of mental wellbeing. While Harvard Pilgrim worked with employer groups on various methods of managing stress and creating positive mental well-being in the workforce, he noticed an increasing trend among its members over the age of one thousand looking for behavioral health services, including mental health support. In response, Harvard Pilgrim recently launched new plans to address the vulnerability of this working generation to burnout. They offer benefits such as coverage for some behavioral health visits and reimbursement for integrated practices believed to help with stress, such as Reiki, naturopathy, and reflexology.

It is a business decision that is not new to the carrier. Early on, he recognized the effectiveness of mindfulness on overall health and wellbeing and has been a leader in developing innovative programs and resources for its members. First introduced in 2005, the Mind the Moment program offers scalable solutions for members of all lifestyles and now includes web-based, telephone or personal services. The modules in the program are often tailored to larger employer groups and have been shown to reduce stress and increase employee productivity. Mind the Moment’s robust offering has also expanded in recent years to partner with a number of leading mindfulness apps to create a hybrid program of live and mobile teaching. This underscores the insurer’s recognition of the technology to drive adoption of the practice.

Go forward

There are currently many customers of Modern Health technology companies. In the future, the startup hopes to expand its customer base to larger companies in various industries – and to work directly with insurers.

“We are pleased to be able to offer a solution that can help everyone,” said Friedensohn. “When we show the improvements we’re seeing in productivity, attrition, and talent development – and the impact they have on the bottom line – the platform becomes a breeze.”

Lisa Wirthman is a journalist who writes on business, public order and women’s issues.

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