Mental health in the workplace

By engaging in meaningful work, over and above the obvious financial benefits, can improve our mental health in the workplace and promote overall well-being. However, upwards of 15% of people in the workplace report experiencing symptoms indicative of a mental health condition [1].

In 2021-22, stress, anxiety, and depression in the workplace resulted in 17 million working days lost in the UK, and on average, each person affected took 18.6 days off work [2]. Left untreated, these conditions are associated with increased sickness absence, presenteeism (physically being present at work, but not productive), and high staff turnover, culminating in underperformance and reduced productivity.

Digital mental health in the workplace

Digital mental health offers a potentially low-cost, efficient, and scalable way to provide mental health support to employees. Digital mental health refers to the application of technology through various media to provide mental health services, such as mental health promotion, monitoring symptoms of wellbeing, self-care, psychoeducation and facilitating counselling through online video platforms.

Digital mental health can offer greater flexibility, easy access alongside an added sense of confidentiality and privacy. By integrating digital tools into workplace mental health initiatives, we can better coordinate care, maximise the efficient use of limited human resources and, empower individuals to manage their wellbeing.

Most recent peer-reviewed academic research has shown that digital mental health interventions can effectively alleviate the symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout of employees altogether improving their psychological well-being. Of the latter, mindfulness-based interventions were identified as most effective and beneficial [3][4].

One size doesn’t fit all

Naturally, there are some inherent disadvantages. Novel interventions such as exposure therapy using virtual reality (VR), are promising, but they can sometimes feel very out of reach. In 2022, Lloyds Bank estimated that within the UK there are 2.6 million people who are digitally excluded, and a further 10 million adults are unable to access the internet by themselves [5]. Furthermore, there are those who simply have no interest in engaging with online resources.

If individuals are unable to either utilise or engage with digital tools, there is a potential for them to be left behind as mental health services become more digitally focused. Organisations, therefore, need to understand that one size does not fit all, digital interventions should support, complement, and blend with human resources rather than take their place, and they are not the beginning and end of the process.

Disparities also exist in the prevalence of mental health conditions among employees within different industry sectors. There is now well-established evidence indicating that adverse work-related critical incidents, workplace demands, and organisational culture all have a significant negative impact on the physical health and well-being of employees [6]. Previous research has highlighted the need for further research on targeted interventions tailored to address different industry sectors and diversity of occupational groups [7]. For example, comparative to office-based personnel, many employees in sectors such as health and social care or transportation and logistics do not have regular access to emails or their “staff intranet.” This can make promoting and accessing digital solutions difficult and runs the risk of excluding certain workplace groups.

It is important therefore, to highlight that when implementing well-being initiatives, digital or not, it is essential to listen to and engage employees to understand their specific challenges and determine what would work best in your organisation. Creating interactive, relevant, and up-to-date digital strategies alongside promoting the digital initiative, training wellbeing teams or champions on how to use it, can play a key part in this essential engagement process.

Take a blended approach

At Inspire, for example, our workplace clients can access our digital well-being platform and avail of psychoeducation, guided self-help tools, and resources, alongside providing an alternative referral pathway into our other services. For example, employees can self-refer to counselling using a simple web form or talk to one of our wellbeing advisors to find the right support, at the right time. Inspire also offers guided self-help for students and young people with good evidence of the positive impact of blending human support with digitalised mental health interventions [8][9].

Opportunities in digital mental health

With advances in technology, we can now analyse enormous amounts of data in real time, providing invaluable insights into how users access and utilise digital mental health tools, harnessing the information to personalise and improve the user experience. This can also be applied to the treatment journey and outcomes, identifying key insights for clinicians and providers on how the treatment pathways could be improved. Technology can also be usefully applied to screen for and flag early signs of poor mental health, providing early just-in-time interventions, to prevent further deterioration.

These opportunities are not without challenges not least surrounding employee data. Strict data security and GDPR policies and procedures need to be in place to prevent unauthorised access, data breaches, and the possibility of sensitive employee data being used for commercial gain.

Key tips when implementing a digital mental health intervention in your organisation

  • Think, and as far as possible, avoid implementing a standalone digital intervention without human resources to support it, provide a blended approach to maximise engagement in and ensure no one is left behind and the right support is provided at the right time.
  • Avoid a rigid, prescriptive approach, co-production and collaboration from outset are key, to maximise buy in ask your employees what they need/want from a digital intervention to support mental health in the workplace.
  • Finally, promotion and training are essential to maximise engagement with digital interventions for mental health in the workplace.


[1] World Health Organization 2022. World Health Organization -Mental health at work. Available at:

[2] Health and Safety Executive, 2023. Working days lost in Great Britain

[3] Armaou, M., Araviaki, E., Dutta, S., Konstantinidis, S. and Blake, H., 2022. Effectiveness of digital interventions for deficit-oriented and asset-oriented psychological outcomes in the workplace: a systematic review and narrative synthesis. European Journal of Investigation in Health, Psychology and Education, 12(10), pp.1471-1497.

[4] Stratton, E., Lampit, A., Choi, I., Malmberg Gavelin, H., Aji, M., Taylor, J., Calvo, R.A., Harvey, S.B. and Glozier, N., 2022. Trends in effectiveness of organizational eHealth interventions in addressing employee mental health: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 24(9), p.e37776

[5] Lloyds Banking Group plc. Tackling the digital divide 2022. Available at:

[6] Lawn, S., Roberts, L., Willis, E., Couzner, L., Mohammadi, L. and Goble, E., 2020. The effects of emergency medical service work on the psychological, physical, and social well-being of ambulance personnel: a systematic review of qualitative research. BMC psychiatry, 20(1), pp.1-16.

[7] Roche, A.M., Pidd, K., Fischer, J.A., Lee, N., Scarfe, A. and Kostadinov, V., 2016. Men, work, and mental health: a systematic review of depression in male-dominated industries and occupations. Safety and health at work, 7(4), pp.268-283.

[8] Linardon, J., Cuijpers, P., Carlbring, P., Messer, M. and Fuller‐Tyszkiewicz, M., 2019. The efficacy of app‐supported smartphone interventions for mental health problems: A meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. World Psychiatry, 18(3), pp.325-336.

[9] Phillips, E.A., Gordeev, V.S. and Schreyögg, J., 2019. Effectiveness of occupational e-mental health interventions. Scandinavian journal of work, environment & health, 45(6), pp.560-576.

Gillian Cameron
Gillian Cameron
Digital Development Lead at Inspire Wellbeing | + posts

Gillian graduated with a first-class Bachelor's degree in Computing from Glasgow Caledonian University in 2016, where she subsequently completed a Master's degree in Business Development and Innovation in 2018. Gillian is now undertaking her PhD at Ulster University in partnership with Inspire where she is exploring digital interventions.