Employee Mental Health Is Suffering. Here’s How Digital Health Tools Can Help

Jun 1, 2022 8:00:00 AM

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We live in stressful times, and that stress is spilling into the workplace. Though the pandemic landed a serious blow to Americans’ mental health, much has happened over the past three years to add to the load. By now, many workers feel they have reached a breaking point.

Consider some of the statistics gathered in 2022 related to employee mental health:

  • 84 percent of workers experienced at least one mental health challenge over the past year, ranging from issues such as stress and burnout to diagnosable conditions including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and PTSD.
  • 87% of Americans say they are under significant stress due to inflation, 81% due to supply chain issues and 81% due to global uncertainty.
  • One in every three employees says returning to the workplace has had a negative impact on their mental health.

Perhaps most relevant to employers, 59% of workers say their mental health problems are affecting them on the job, up from 48% in 2020. Clearly, it’s time for employers to augment their mental health support programs, and digital health tools can be part of that strategy.

What happens when workers struggle

Poor mental health takes a toll on the workplace, impacting worker attitudes and performance. It can contribute to increased absenteeism, disengagement, lack of concentration and higher rates of physical illness. 

High stress can also lead to burnout and prompt workers to leave their jobs. In a survey of 1,000 American workers who switched jobs during COVID-19,  burnout was the number-one reason people left their jobs, cited by 40% of respondents.

If there’s anything positive about these trends, it’s that many employers are taking notice and taking action. Employer-driven support can take many directions, approaching the problem from both systemic and personal angles. That can include expanding EAP and on-site programs as well as developing strategies to break down the stigmas associated with mental health. 

Digital tools and resources should also be part of that holistic strategy. Here are three reasons to incorporate digital solutions into your corporate mental health efforts.

  1. Increased access to health and well-being experts.

Even when employees know they are struggling, they may face obstacles to getting the help they need. Some have family responsibilities that leave them little time for self-care. Or they can’t easily get to in-person appointments due to scheduling or transportation issues. 

On top of that, mental health professionals are in short supply due to high need.  According to a USAFacts report, about 37% of the U.S. population, or 122 million Americans, live in areas experiencing shortages of mental health professionals.

Digital tools help by making experts more accessible. Employees can use mobile apps offered by their company to find and meet with licensed health or wellness professionals right from their smartphones or tablets. They can make appointments that work with their schedules without having to find babysitters or commute across town to interact with a professional counselor or coach. Some mobile wellness programs even let people connect with experts on-demand, whenever they need support.

  1. Improved scalability and affordability.

It’s one thing to provide one or two employees with mental health support services, but what happens when 50% or more of your employees need help? It can become logistically impossible, as well as cost-prohibitive. 

Digital health tools make supporting more employees manageable. Employees simply download the program’s mobile app to connect, using a company-specific link to establish an account. Within minutes, they are ready to get started, and at a cost-per-employee that’s a fraction of what in-person services would demand.

Of course, digital health platforms differ in scope. The number of your employees they can accommodate depends largely on how the program is structured and whether the platform utilizes technology to streamline certain functionality. Look for programs that balance high-tech with high-touch to serve large numbers of employees, but always with an emphasis on real, human connections.

  1. Increased availability of holistic wellness services.

When people think of services to improve mental health, they automatically jump to counseling or therapy — and those are very important components. However, there are other ways you can contribute to a more mentally-fit workforce, such as holistic wellness support that focuses on nutrition, fitness and well-being.

A study published in the journal Food for Thought compiled evidence that poor nutrition can contribute to low mood due to its impacts on blood sugar, immunity and the gut microbiome. Improving diet, on the other hand, seems to protect not only physical health but mental health.

The connection is so strong that a new branch of medicine called nutritional psychiatry has emerged, focusing on the integration of food into broader mental health treatment plans.

Employers can tap into the mind-body connection by offering digital programs focused on helping employees improve their eating and activity practices. Look for tools that mobilize a team of real, licensed coaches with a variety of expertise, including psychology, nutrition, exercise physiology and more. Getting healthier and more fit physically will help employees feel mentally stronger, more positive and more resilient — even when times are hard. 

Yes Health’s mobile-first platform delivers all three benefits of effective digital tools for mental health, offering accessibility, affordability in supporting large numbers of employees, and nutrition and fitness support. Let us show you how Yes Health can support your company’s efforts to improve mental and physical wellness. Reach out for a conversation and demo.