App Spotlight: Happify

In this month’s App Spotlight we’re checking out Happify, an app and website designed to use games to help users learn to deal with stress and build resilience. As a special offer, any GB clients interested in accessing Happify can do so at a 30% discount using the following link – http://www.happify.com/o/lpr/1?srid=gbassett

happifyHappify is one of a number of services that have been getting attention recently for their innovative use of apps and games to try and improve the mental health of users.

Happify users are given short daily activities to complete assigned into “tracks”. As an example, if users choose to complete the “confidence” track the activities they’re given include things like clicking on balloons with positive words on them and listing three things you were grateful for the day before.

Happify’s developers say that by using the app regularly users develop better mental habits around resilience, happiness and positive thinking.

According to Happify their activities and games are scientifically developed, using their S.T.A.G.E. framework, which says there are five essential skills for happiness: savoring, thanking, aspiring, giving, and empathising. Happify’s measures suggest that 86% of frequent users get happier within two months of use.

For anything this new, however, the science is still undergoing scruitiny. VicHealth lists Happify as one of its top Healthy Living apps and commended its functionality, but did raise some questions about its ability to improve long term behavior.

We interviewed the team at Happify to better understand their app and, in particular, how it could be useful to improve mental health in the workplace.

Mental injuries appear to be becoming increasingly common – why do you believe this is?

Twenty-first century stressors such as increasingly intense work environments and uncertainty can take a toll on employees’ mental health. The pressures of office culture to be connected and available all the time can have a negative effect on mindfulness. Increased demand on employees’ time and working longer hours also put employees under considerable stress. These stressors all contribute to mental injuries becoming more common.

Why is mental health important from an employer/business perspective?

Employees’ mental health has a direct effect on productivity. Depending on the severity of the issue, employees can even miss work due to mental illness. The World Health Organisation estimates that stress costs companies $300 billion a year in lost productivity. Taking a holistic approach to employee health, which includes a focus on mental health, means increased productivity.

Despite mental health being an increasing concern, employers may not even know how large of an issue it may be for their personnel. Our work with large employers have showcased a sizable group of employees, 20-50 percent, have undiagnosed symptoms of depression. We have also seen a number of high stress times throughout the year that can trigger a dip in employees’ productivity and mental state.

Undiagnosed depression and trigger moments throughout the year both signal why it’s vital for employers to proactively address and encourage mental fitness with each and every employee – doing so could increase your bottom line.  

Why are apps and games effective as a way to improve mental health?

Accessibility and privacy are key for mental health tools to be effective for users. The ubiquitous nature of smartphones allow easy access to apps at virtually any time of day for users. An app is a discreet and very private way for users to engage mental health tools. Ultimately, both the ease of accessibility and privacy will help increase engagement and develop habitual use, which is critical for success.

In additional to the app platform increasing habitual use, another key component for effectiveness is the content. Content created from evidence based science increases the app’s effectiveness.

What role do you think games can play in improving mental health in the workplace?

Games better engage employees, which in turn increases use of apps on a regular basis. Games are effective because they can result in habitual use.

Without an engaging app or program users are less likely to come back and use the tool again. The sustained use over time is critical to improved mental health.

Is there anything companies can do to encourage their staff to use tools like Happify?

The first major step employers can take is to make sure employees can easily access mental health tools.

Employers should also talk about the importance of mental wellness as part of a whole health – both physical and mental – routine with employees. Employers can use this conversation to help de-stigmatise mental health by encouraging the use of emotional wellness plans for 100 percent of their employees.

In addition to encouraging use among all personnel, working proactively to identify relevant events and groups that are subjected to higher levels of stress can help intervene to prevent sharp declines in mental fitness. For example, the financial team could be under greater pressure leading up to tax season.