Digital therapies provide customized, flexible resources and employee mental health grows in importance
Employee mental health has declined since the start of the pandemic and, over one year later, could use a boost. A recent survey by the Ontario branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association found that only 35 per cent of people in that province consider their current state of mental health as very good or excellent, and eight in 10 believe that there will be a serious mental health crisis post-pandemic.
These are mental health issues that can seriously affect the workplace. In fact, in a report by the International Federation of Employee Benefit Plans, almost three-quarters of employers named stress as the top issue that is negatively impacting workplace productivity. Mental health support for employees can help productivity and ensure that employers remain attractive when it comes to recruiting top talent.
In a recent free whitepaper developed by TELUS Health, Digital therapies to address anxiety and depression symptoms, digital therapies are presented as a viable and scalable solution to supporting employees in terms of mental health. Roee Ben-Eli, Mental Health Program Manager, Virtual Care, for TELUS Health, says that as employers contemplate a return to the office for their staff, many employees who have been working from home now cite safety and work-life balance as their top concerns. The pandemic turned out to be a time of reflection and contemplation, and many workers find themselves evaluating what they want from their present employer, including considering the types of benefits and wellness programs offered - which can be key factors in a worker’s decision to stay or move on to a new organization.
“We are seeing a growing trend of employee migration to new employers who offer more attractive solutions and support for [mental health and wellness],” says Ben-Eli. “The cost of losing employees in an already difficult recruitment climate is a motivator for employers to have robust wellness programs in place and benefits that are tailored to the changing needs of the workforce.”
It’s not only the number of mental health resources available to employees that is changing, but also the way employees can access them. Employers can now provide digital solutions that are offered on-demand and are more flexible, allowing employees to access them more easily. Employees can check these solutions out from the comfort of home, whenever it fits best with their own schedule.
Although mental health support offered digitally may not sound ideal to some, Ben-Eli says that there are ways for the “human touch” to be incorporated into the delivery of mental health care online, resulting in certain clinical consultations being delivered virtually without compromising the quality of care. The flexible format of digital therapy also allows employees to take charge of their own care with a customized plan that works best for them — for example, the ability to pause online modules and resume them as needed helps to eliminate the time pressure of an in-person session.
“Ultimately, digital therapy is helping to bridge the gap between symptom and care, by bringing the clinic straight to the patient. From a clinician’s standpoint, this also allows them to observe their patient’s state of mind more consistently and be made aware of any changes that may require action. These are just some of the benefits of digital mental healthcare,” Ben-Eli says.
One element of mental health care that is becoming more common as part of employee benefits is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a form of psychotherapy that addresses triggers and responses. CBT helps employees learn the correlation between behaviours that negatively impact their emotional state and the ability to change those behaviours, which in turn can help employers cultivate a more resilient workforce with less absenteeism and workplace conflict. It also fits well with digital delivery, as many of its principles are typically applied independently between sessions through worksheets or journals.
“Multiple studies over the last decade have shown that digitally delivered CBT with clinician supervision is as effective as in-person therapy,” says Ben-Eli. “With digital tools, patients have better visibility on their progress and are guided through the application of their new cognitive skills.”
Digital CBT also helps people who are concerned with the stigma that can still surround mental illness and that could discourage individuals from seeking help. Employees can be discreet in their therapeutic process, accessing self-guided modules from a safe space at home more quickly than having to wait for traditional treatment.
“Digital therapy is designed to serve people who are seeking help, despite the barriers they may typically face in traditional healthcare settings,” says Ben-Eli. “Taking care of our mental health can and should be considered as an integral part of our regular healthcare routine and digital therapies are the perfect tool to make that possible.”
For more information on a guided digital cognitive behavioural therapy program, download the free whitepaper from TELUS Health Virtual Care here.