Employees' Perspectives on the Facilitators and Barriers to Engaging with Digital Mental Health Interventions in the Workplace: Qualitative Study

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Background: Prevalence rates of work-related stress, depression, and anxiety are high, resulting in reduced productivity and increased absenteeism. There is evidence that these conditions can be successfully treated in the workplace, but take-up of psychological treatments among workers is low. Digital mental health interventions delivered in the workplace may be one way to address this imbalance, but although there is evidence that digital mental health is effective at treating stress, depression, and anxiety in the workplace, uptake of and engagement with these interventions remains a concern. Additionally, there is little research on the appropriateness of the workplace for delivering these interventions or on what the facilitators and barriers to engagement with digital mental health interventions in an occupational setting might be. Objective: The aim of this research was to get a better understanding of the facilitators and barriers to engaging with digital mental health interventions in the workplace. Methods: Semistructured interviews were held with 18 participants who had access to an occupational digital mental health intervention as part of a randomized controlled trial. The interviews were transcribed, and thematic analysis was used to develop an understanding of the data. Results: Digital mental health interventions were described by interviewees as convenient, flexible, and anonymous; these attributes were seen as being both facilitators and barriers to engagement in a workplace setting. Convenience and flexibility could increase the opportunities to engage with digital mental health, but in a workplace setting they could also result in difficulty in prioritizing time and ensuring a temporal and spatial separation between work and therapy. The anonymity of the Internet could encourage use, but that benefit may be lost for people who work in open-plan offices. Other facilitators to engagement included interactive and interesting content and design features such as progress trackers and reminders to log in. The main barrier to engagement was the lack of time. The perfect digital mental health intervention was described as a website that combined a short interactive course that was accessed alongside time-unlimited information and advice that was regularly updated and could be dipped in and out of. Participants also wanted access to e-coaching support. Conclusions: Occupational digital mental health interventions may have an important role in delivering health care support to employees. Although the advantages of digital mental health interventions are clear, they do not always fully translate to interventions delivered in an occupational setting and further work is required to identify ways of minimizing potential barriers to access and engagement.




Carolan, S., & De Visser, R. O. (2018). Employees’ Perspectives on the Facilitators and Barriers to Engaging with Digital Mental Health Interventions in the Workplace: Qualitative Study. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 20(1). https://doi.org/10.2196/mental.9146

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