With employee burnout at all-time highs, Headspace Health rolls out new business line to help companies tackle it

Headspace Health is diversifying its business beyond its core mental health services by launching a new leadership training program to help senior management tackle workplace burnout and employee engagement.

The leadership workshop program will be the first of many offerings in a growing culture services program that aims to bolster self-compassion among leaders and prepare them to engage in meaningful conversations with their teams about mental health, burnout and stress, according to company executives.

The new offering provides senior leaders at large corporations with critical education and guidance on burnout, psychological safety and self-care in the midst of an ongoing mental health crisis.

"This is the beginning of a move towards making the workplace a source of mental health strength," Russ Glass, CEO of Headspace Health, told Fierce Healthcare in an exclusive interview.

"If you go to work, have access to benefits like Headspace for Work and Ginger, but have managers and leaders who aren’t competent in addressing burnout, creating psychological safety and having conversations on mental health, the workplace won’t truly be a source of mental health strength," he said.

The expansion into what Glass called "culture services" is part of Headspace Health's strategy to help employer clients attract and retain top talent, boost employee engagement and ultimately reduce attrition, which can be extremely costly to the bottom line.

"Down the line, we envision expanding our offerings with new courses, working with our clients to embed these trainings into the employee onboarding experience, and convening industry leaders via leadership forums or retreats to discuss the unique challenges they face," Glass said.

With employee burnout and turnover at an all-time high, companies are beginning to recognize that investing in leadership training on mental health and well-being is now table stakes, he said.

"We’ve received increasing demand for a training program like this from enterprises around the globe. In particular, management teams are looking for science-backed tools, strategies and actionable steps to better support the mental health of their teams," Glass said. "At the same time, we continue to hear that managers are also struggling with their own mental health as stress and anxiety remain high and diagnosed depression increased for managers in 2021."

Without formal training on managing mental health in the workplace, many managers don’t have the right tools or strategies to succeed either as leaders themselves or in support of their teams, he noted.

"The purpose of our program is to empower leaders to be champions of their own self-care and ultimately build cultures of growth, resilience and compassion," Glass added.

According to a global study from the McKinsey Health Institute, employees experiencing burnout are six times more likely to report they intend to leave their employers in the next three to six months, and intent to leave may correlate with two to three times higher rates of attrition. Conservative estimates of the cost of replacing employees range from one-half to two times their annual salary.

Headspace has been running a small pilot of the program for almost four months that helped to inform the final go-to-market product, Glass said.

The company piloted with 11 clients in the U.S. and the U.K., including HSBC and medical supplies company Medline. 

"Those clients were pretty thrilled with the results. Pilot sessions received an average of 95% workshop satisfaction among participants, and every pilot customer has asked for more manager trainings as well as a deeper partnership with us," Glass said. 

Feedback from the pilot programs indicates that burnout management is the most sought-after topic followed by training on psychological safety and check-in techniques, according to Glass.

“This program has provided some of our senior leaders with incredibly useful insights around how to create an environment where their teams can be at their best,” said Sean Tolram, global manager, mindfulness program at HSBC, in a statement. “With easy-to-digest content, combined with highly relevant and practical exercises, this program addresses how to lead with a human touch, so that improvements in employee motivation, performance, and productivity can be achieved.”

Last fall, Headspace merged with Ginger, creating a $3 billion mental health company. By combining Ginger's teletherapy services with Headspace's meditation and mindfulness app, the company now has a combined reach to 100 million consumers, according to the company.

The new culture services offering will initially be available to Ginger and Headspace for Work enterprise clients in the U.S and the U.K. as of July 1. The service will be available to prospects and other international clients in the company’s operating regions beginning January 2023.

The training program currently includes content on mindful leadership intended for leaders of any level and provides guidance for managers on self-compassion, compassion for others and managing health teams—which is intended for people managers and includes topics such as burnout management, psychological safety and check-in techniques—as well as single workshop sessions on self-compassion, self-care and burnout management. 

In training programs covering burnout, managers can learn how to recognize the lesser-known signs of burnout, how to make a plan to help their teams feel less stressed and more inspired, how they should adjust their check-in conversations to proactively track feelings of burnout and how to provide them with additional resources for support, according to Glass.