Emotional health ‘vital to a high-performing culture’

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Employers who want to make a significant change to the health and happiness of their workforce —while also boosting productivity —must address emotional health.

That was the message from Ofer Leidner, co-founder and president of digital health platform Happify, and Laurie Zaugg, the company’s chief operating officer, during a session this week at EBN’s Benefits Forum & Expo in Boca Raton, Fla.

“Emotional health is vital to a high-performing culture,” Zaugg said. “It didn’t used to be OK to talk to employees about things that weren’t work related. It was taboo. But now we understand that we need to have a different approach. It’s not just about the employee, but the business.”

Stress, burnout and mental health issues are common and costly, Leidner said. Employers are losing an estimated $225.8 billion each year due to stress, anxiety, depression and substance abuse, which contribute to high turnover, burnout, exhaustion and decreased motivation, according to a report compiled by Mental Health America.

The problem is being exacerbated by the millennial population, who suffer from depression and anxiety in record numbers, Zaugg said. That’s making it all the more imperative for employers to act fast.

See also: How benefits can help millennials improve mental health

“A small time spent on this can have a big impact,” Zaugg said.

“Seventy-five percent of the workforce will be millennials,” Leidner added. “You need to think about these individuals and how they are managing things on devices. Managing mental health is included. Millennials are key in advancing solutions.”

That is one reason a combination of digital solutions and personalized live training is key to combating these problems. “This way you can leave behind something they can start doing and practice right away,” Leidner said. His business Happify, for example, is a digital platform that helps employees understand the source of their feelings. Then, it teaches them how to turn negative feelings into positive ones. It offers 24-7 access to tracks featuring science-based activities and games that tackle topics such as resilience and mindfulness and conditions including stress, depression and anxiety.

Leidner said a variety of interventions, rather than a singular approach, is key. Multiple programs will help employees find what’s relevant for them — and what works. For example, while meditation might an effective way for one employee to destress and relax, it isn’t for everyone.

One benefit of using digital solutions is the ability to track data on success, Zaugg said. Employees can improve depressive symptoms in as little as 4-8 weeks with the help of a digital app and live coaching, Happify claims.

Simply put, the two agreed, a happy employee makes a better workplace.

“When people feel better, they come into work more optimistic, more engaged,” Leidner said.

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Mental health Mental health benefits Wellness programs Healthcare plans Healthcare benefits