Ginger announced its intent to merge with Headspace earlier this week. The combined entity, Headspace Health, will create a workforce of 800-plus and a $3 billion valuation. Yeah, it’s big for the mental health space. The vendor will join the upper band of large employee mental health support providers (which includes firms such as Modern Health and Lyra Health) that look to fully support the broad spectrum of employee mental health needs. With Headspace Health, employers now will get to choose between Headspace for Work’s mindfulness and meditation offering and the more comprehensive Ginger and Headspace support offering.

What makes Headspace Health unique is its ability to support users across different needs and levels of commitment when it comes to mental health support, even as those shift over time. Its offerings provide that low to high range, from mindfulness and mediation aids to more immersive telehealth visits for psychiatry and therapy and text-based behavioral health coaching.

In a Forrester interview, Russell Glass, the CEO of the new Headspace Health entity, stated that (in addition to the users who use Ginger’s coaching and therapy offering) “there are about 80–90% of employees who are in a preventative mode (for mental health care). We are now able to better support them with this expanded offering.” According to Glass, there are Ginger clients that want a mental health solution that can support 100% of their workforce. And there’s also demand from Headspace for Work clients that want to provide their employees with more mental health support offerings.

Is There A 1 + 1 = 3?

  • Will employee engagement increase with mental health programs? Yes! Employees looking to build skills around stress management, sleep habits, meditation, and other mental resilience tools with the Headspace offering can benefit from Ginger coaches who keep them accountable. Forrester’s Successful Health And Wellness Mobile Experiences series lays out the importance of successful mobile user engagement for building healthy habits, but most offerings don’t check all these boxes. Coaching is one of the five key engagement mechanics that drive impact on the user.
  • Will the employer program ROI increase with a more complete offering? Probably. We ran five benefit scenarios with Forrester’s Employee Mental Health Benefit Calculator. At a high level, breadth, effectiveness, and engagement are the three areas mental health vendors can influence that drive estimated returns for employers. Headspace and Ginger offerings (if integrated) latch on nicely to bring effectiveness to individual employer areas while together covering the full spectrum of benefits for employers. But it’s the higher engagement across the broader solution that drives the greatest shift in quantified benefits, multiplying the results from the merged breadth and depth of Headspace and Ginger.
  • Can the Headspace brand and app reach silent sufferers and reduce stigma? Possibly. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that only 37% of those suffering from anxiety receive treatment. Moreover, only 26% of firms have a program focused on reaching silent sufferers. The billion-dollar question: How do you reach that group and keep them engaged? Headspace has a relatively strong consumer brand in the wellness space, with over 2 million paid subscribers and 65 million app downloads. Forrester sees a unique opportunity for employers to leverage the Headspace brand as it rolls this app out to employees to create a less-stigmatized point of entry where employees can build mental resilience. The app can be viewed as a meditation and mindfulness app, which more employees would be willing to download and try. These employees can be further engaged with personalized recommendations and offerings, including coaching or therapy for some individuals suffering in silence.

What You, As Employers, Need To Do

Employers need to address three critical areas in their company, regardless of which mental health solution they choose and use.

  1. Calculate and track the ROI from mental health programs. Only 14% of large US employers calculate program ROI today. Forrester sees employer investments in mental health increasing over the next few years as leading solutions continue to bolster mindfulness and mental wellness offerings, create robust analytics programs to make personalized care-path recommendations, and offer clinically effective therapy and coaching solutions to support those with the greatest needs. But without tracking ROI, the long-term investments for mental health will lose luster at the senior management level over the next few years.
  2. Gain and nurture employee trust. Without trust, there is no employee engagement, and without engagement, your mental health support solutions will fall flat. As comprehensive mental health support solutions look to analyze data and interactions to best engage and support the employee, the employee’s preferences must be considered. Moving too fast, even for the benefit of the user, can cause an unforgiving loss of employee trust.
  3. Do not rely too heavily on your mental health support partner to support employee needs. Organizations must constantly assess how they can improve culture and alleviate stressors for their employees. A staggeringly low 17% of large US employers said that their leadership self-assesses the extent to which they’re supporting a psychologically safe workplace and employee mental health. Your employee’s mental health starts at the leadership level, and it is their responsibility to ensure that employees are supported.

Forrester clients can find more employee mental health coverage here.

(Paul-Julien Giraud contributed to this blog.)