The rise of mental health start-ups for burnt-out employees

As workplace burnout becomes a major problem, mental health start-ups are on a mission to bring some much-needed relief for burnt-out workers.

Workplace burnout is not something that most students were warned about in school or college. Typically, it's not until embarking on your chosen career that you get blindsided on a rainy Wednesday afternoon by a combination of tight deadlines, back-to-back meetings, and strained relationships as you suddenly feel disengaged from everything.

Throw a global pandemic into the mix along with more than a year of isolation, and the problem is further exacerbated. Burnout blues, mental health, and even substance abuse issues quickly follow. McKinsey & Company revealed that 35 million workers are now suffering from behavioral health issues in the US alone. As a result, the mental health and well-being of employees are rapidly becoming a crucial metric in the workplace.

With young people quitting their jobs in record numbers and showing no intention of going back, businesses must look after their staff. With employee retention and productivity throughout every aspect of the company at stake, it's becoming a major problem. But there is a significant increase in mental health start-ups on a mission to bring some much-needed relief for burnt-out employees.

The rise of mental health and well-being start-ups

The problems that entrepreneurs looked to solve back in 2019 are very different from the challenges facing businesses and the workforce in 2022. According to CB Insights, mental health start-up funding reached a record $852 million in the opening quarter of 2021 which was nearly double the amount raised during the same period in 2020.

New York-based Spring Health is on a mission to replace the traditional employee assistance program (ESP) and enable businesses to offer their employees customized mental health plans. Its well-being solution includes mindfulness, meditation, care navigation, coaching, therapy, and medication management.

The approach is proving to be a big hit with global companies like PepsiCo and Instacart management which have helped push Spring Health towards a $2B valuation.

Real is another example born from the need for a radical change in the mental health care system. In an interview, Real founder and CEO Ariela Safira shared how they wanted to create a solution that was everything a traditional, outdated therapy office is not. The result is a therapist-designed mental health program that is available on-demand so that employees have the flexibility to take mental breaks when and where is best for them.

Ariela also launched Real to the People, which offered free access to the platform during the height of the pandemic. Elsewhere, Clarigent Health is leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning in a preventative approach to mental wellness.

The AI-based mental health tech can help detect and treat depression, anxiety issues and detect mental health conditions early on.

However, these are just a few examples of mental health start-ups increasing at a phenomenal rate everywhere from the UK to Southeast Asia. Measuring the results for digital-health services can be notoriously tricky. But every new start-up in this space will ultimately be judged by the metrics around how they improve care and lower costs.

Disconnecting for the holidays

During the holiday season, many are finding that an increasing number of notifications leave them permanently tethered to the screen of their work phone. Ensuring your employees have the right to disconnect during downtime and removing workplace surveillance are just a few ways to extinguish employee burnout one flame at a time.

Teams need to be encouraged to make the most of their time off and escape the dreaded pinging sound from notifications and all forms of out-of-hours contact.

It is now every manager and leader's responsibility to ensure their employees take time off and disconnect for their mental health.

Without that downtime, employees cannot return feeling fresh and motivated in the new year.

Overcompensating when working from home can lead to longer hours, bigger workloads, and daily pressures that are unsustainable for any human being. Employers have a huge responsibility to ensure that a working life where every employee is expected to always be online does not become the norm. However, they also need to recognize that the mental health crisis is much more complex than drawing a line between work and an employee's home life.

AI is already helping doctors assess data, but it can also play a critical role in preventing, identifying, managing, or treating mental health conditions. Our digital lifestyle leaves behind a big digital footprint and many data points to allow AI and machine learning to unlock valuable insights. Collectively, they could help every individual embrace a more proactive approach to leading a healthier life, both physically and mentally.

As the mental health crisis continues to affect organizations of all sizes, the mental health and well-being of their employees has become a business-critical metric. With the rise of mental health start-ups making big promises on how they can help burnt-out employees, we can expect many debates around what those metrics will look like.

How we measure their effectiveness might change over time, but the workforce's mental health and well-being will continue to be a responsibility that we all share.

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