Headspace partners with Virgin Pulse to build out digital mental health services for employers, health plans

Companies continue to ramp up investments in resources to support employees' mental health and wellbeing as workers grapple with work-related stress, burnout, depression and anxiety.

Two-thirds of U.S. employers plan to make employee mental health and emotional wellbeing programs and solutions one of their top three health priorities over the next three years, according to an October 2022 survey by Willis Towers Watson. At the same time, U.S. employers feel that they are coming up short when it comes to meeting the mental health needs of their employees. Companies are seeking guidance on the best ways to address their workers' mental health needs, according to a recent survey from the Northeast Business Group on Health.

Digital mental health company Headspace is building on its partnership with Virgin Pulse, a digital-first health, wellbeing and navigation company, to make it easier for employers and health plans to provide a range of mental health services to their employees and plan members.

Organizations using Virgin Pulse's platform will have integrated access to Headspace's full suite of offerings including behavioral health coaching, therapy, psychiatry and employee assistance program (EAP) services. 

Virgin Pulse also tapped Headspace to provide mental health solutions for its 2,000 employees.

Headspace, which merged with Ginger in a $3 billion deal in the fall of 2021, offers meditation and mindfulness services along with on-demand coaching, therapy and psychiatry services.

Headspace’s app has been available to Virgin Pulse clients for several years through its partner ecosystem but the company deepened its integration with the platform to create a seamless member experience, according to Katie DiPerna Cook, senior vice president of partnerships at Headspace.

"Members now have an easy path to navigate to the mental health services that they would need. Also, from an employer perspective, for HR buyers, it can be difficult to manage a wide suite of solutions. So, we have also enhanced our partnership on the back-end so that now from a procurement and sales and onboarding perspective, it can all be done from the Virgin Pulse platform. It makes a seamless experience both for the member as well as for the HR buyer who's looking to enhance their mental health offerings."

There is growing recognition of the value of mental health in the workplace. Headspace recently surveyed 4,000 workers and found that 73% of employees use mental health benefits regularly and 75% worry their company will cut back on mental health support and benefits if there is a recession, according to the company's annual workforce attitudes toward mental health survey. However, the majority of CEOs reported they would increase mental health benefits during tough economic times.

"There's been this perception that as the pandemic has wound down, mental health isn't as much at the forefront of buyers. Our recent research and Virgin Pulse's research is showing quite the opposite," DiPerna Cook said. "We're seeing significant demand, both from the employee and the employer."

Mental health is one of the biggest challenges impacting organizations today, as indicated by more than one-third of HR leaders, Virgin Pulse's 2023 global workplace wellbeing survey found. Half of HR and benefits leaders surveyed (56%) felt that providing support for mental health concerns was the most important issue to address with their health and wellbeing program, followed by stress management (49%). 

Following its merger with Ginger, Headspace now reaches 100 million consumers in 190 countries, according to the company. The company's enterprise brand, Headspace for Work, is distributed through over 4,000 employers.

"We're expanding significantly as well in the health plan base and have a number of large partnerships. We're in-network providers with over 45 health plans," DiPerna Cook said.

The company has expanded its offering through acquisitions as well. Last year, Headspace acquired the Shine app, a platform designed with the unique challenges of the BIPOC community in mind. Last year, it also bought Sayana, an AI-driven mental health and wellness company, to build out AI-based mental health tools.

Following its merger with Ginger, Headspace has ramped up its focus on offering employers and health plans an integrated solution to serve as the "front door" to mental health services—from self-care tools for well-being and healthy habits, to a range of human services, from coaching through psychiatric care, to address more acute needs, according to Leslie Witt, chief product and design officer at Headspace, during an interview back in 2022.

Headspace's offerings include on-demand employee assistance, including work-life services like legal and financial resources as well as access to behavioral health coaching to complex clinical support. Employees also have access to on-demand, self-guided mindfulness and meditation exercises through the Headspace app. 

"The idea behind the unified offering is that no matter where a member is on their mental health journey, we are able to navigate them to the right level of care, and that can be a step up or a step down as well," DiPerna Cook said. "We see mental health as a longitudinal journey and that includes everything from preventative maintenance all the way through to if something does happen in your life and you need a little bit more support, whether that be from a coach, or a therapist or even psychiatrists, our connected care model means that your coach, your clinician is working together to help support you in those most difficult moments."

You can’t address whole-person wellbeing without addressing mental health, noted Chris Michalak, CEO of Virgin Pulse. "It’s a critical pillar in the equation. There is also a direct correlation between mental wellbeing and employee engagement, productivity, retention, and culture, yet business leaders often struggle with how to best support their people," Michalak said in a statement.

Virgin Pulse’s platform connects organizations with digital health tools across 25 health and wellbeing categories. The company's partner ecosystem program helps to eliminate administrative burdens for companies by completing thorough partner reviews along with handling vendor contracting, procurement, and billing on behalf of clients. Partner solutions – like the Headspace suite – are  integrated and accessible through Virgin Pulse’s Homebase for Health platform.