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Apps have the potential to help many thousands of employees build resilience to deal with stress or poor mental health.

It’s clearer than ever that the workplace stress epidemic is cutting a swathe through Britain’s employees. Recently published research shows that over a third of workers (36%) have left their jobs because of stress. Real-world consequences are piling up for both the individuals affected, and the organisations that employ them. But in a world of increasingly stretched resources, what more can be done?

Andres Fonseca, Co-founder and CEO of app developer Thrive, has brought his long experience as a psychiatrist and researcher to bear to develop a targeted digital solution, as he explained to Wellbeing Pulse.

Digital future

“When I worked in the NHS, it was clear to me that its strengths lay in treatment, rather than prevention. That started me thinking we could harness the power of digital technology to prevent or reduce mental health illness.

Many organisations are introducing mental health apps into the workplace, as evidence grows that they can increase reduce stress and increase both wellbeing and productivity.

Most mental health apps work on the 70:30 principle. For 70% of employees, apps can identify potential issues before they become severe enough to affect performance or wellbeing. For the other 30%, whose symptoms are more severe, more personal interventions will be more appropriate, such as counselling provided by employee assistance programmes (EAPs).

Wider potential

“And apps have even more potential to make a difference to employees. They can be used to offer advice and tips for problems such as financial or sleep difficulties, or obsessive-compulsive disorders. Thrive’s research has also shown that many people prefer a mental health app offering a broad-based interaction resembling an online game, rather than one that focuses on a particular diagnosis.

We’ve found it’s more important to identify an individual’s particular personal characteristics, and then provide content relevant to their circumstances. This comprehensive approach allows us to take into account many different factors in a person’s life, such as their relationships and caring responsibilities.

After an employee has used our app for a while, the app has accumulated enough data to offer them a few targeted solutions, such as for stress, without overwhelming them with too much choice. For one person, mindfulness might be appropriate, while for another, applied relaxation techniques might work better. Either way, employees are being helped to help themselves on a low-cost basis for the employer.

Rigorous evidence

“Applied properly, and with a rigorous evidence base, apps offer a win-win scenario for both parties. Employers can be good corporate citizens – potentially reducing the burden on the NHS – while the workforce becomes more engaged, happy and productive. It’s important to remember, however, that apps aren’t the whole story. They should always form part of a stepped range of services, including EAPs.

Over time, apps can also increase staff mental resilience – equipping employees to deal better with the stresses and strains of modern life. By embracing the digital, we can both prevent illness and strengthen workers’ ability to deal with the challenges of the modern workplace.”

BWC app

Get one month of access to the Bank Workers Charity Stress Free app. Using your mobile, visit BWC’s How to be stress free page and enter the following code: BANKWORKERDEMO0916