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What the Merger of Headspace and Ginger Means for the Digital Workplace

August 31, 2021 Digital Workplace
Lance Haun
By Lance Haun

Predicting the future is tough in work technology. But a merger between on-demand mental health platform Ginger and meditation and mindfulness app Headspace doesn’t seem to come too far out of left field. The combined valuation of $3 billion to form the new Headspace Health? That might be more of a surprise.

As mental well-being has entered our collective zeitgeist, it’s clear people and organizations need practical answers to the associated challenges. The cracks in the foundation of our mental health system have been laid bare. While we still need comprehensive and equitable mental and behavioral health services in line with what we get for physical health, the combination of Ginger and Headspace offers an intriguing opportunity to do something innovative. 

For organizations that are in the process of thinking about the digital workplace, the Ginger and Headspace pairing offers a glimpse into what the future of work technology will look like. Here are a few takeaways. 

Think About Life Journey as Part of Employee Experience

Building an attractive benefits mix has always been about creating a workplace, and an employee experience, where everyone feels they get something from their work beyond just compensation. Some benefits like PTO are practically universal, while others are more targeted toward certain employees. So child care benefits are offered alongside early career development opportunities and transition support for retirement. 

This is a fine initial strategy. But in the digital workplace, we have to think more intentionally about what this looks like as a unified journey. For instance, a child doesn’t generally fall into a person’s lap. While offering child care benefits is great, helping parents navigate the transition from having or adopting a child to putting that child in care is better. Thinking about the things that disrupt child care, like an unexpected illness or if a provider is unavailable, is another.

The new Headspace Health acknowledges this fact, and helps people through a variety of mental health journeys. Like physical health, mental health isn’t a static thing. Depending only on acute behavioral health services to treat your employee’s mental well-being is a lot like depending on hospitals to treat physical well-being. You often end up treating the symptoms but not the cause. Headspace Health expands the number of journeys employees can take within their platform, from access to coaching and psychiatrists to meditation and mindfulness exercises that can strengthen mental health.

Related Article: Employee Mental Health and Well-Being Are No Game

Create a Radically Consumerized Experience

Headspace, in particular, has spent millions to create an app that’s consumer-friendly. That's all it was in the beginning — a product aimed at the individual consumer. Because of that, their move into the business market in the last couple of years to offer Headspace at Work has one advantage: Unlike most work-based applications, they don’t have to spend a lot of effort getting people to actually use their application.

Headspace's legacy as a consumer-facing company means it has honed its approach to user experience and engagement. Even the least advanced users and technologically challenged can take advantage of Headspace products. A well-known consumer brand hasn't hurt its enterprise business approach. 

Ginger isn’t offered to consumers in the same way Headspace is. Its dedicated app integrates secure video calls and texting to make it easy to access mental health resources.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Ginger's targeted mental health products and services offered to a broader set of consumers in some fashion through Headspace Health. If so, that would go a long way to bridging the gap for individuals who don’t have robust employer-provided mental health services. 

Related Article: One Year Later, the Pandemic's Grim Toll on Employee Mental Health Is Clear

Rethink Technology From the Ground Up

Thinking more intentionally about the employee journey and employee experiences from a consumer point of view first is an opportunity to address some of the challenges the digital workplace will throw at us in the next few years. 

We’re already seeing this trend in employee learning, where companies like LinkedIn Learning and Coursera are making a broad appeal to individuals, not just the business. It doesn't take too much effort to imagine this same employee-first approach being applied to payroll, where an integrated app with Mint-like financial well-being and analysis tools built in becomes the app of choice for people managing their finances. The possibilities are worth considering. 

This approach is aligned with the way employees want to work today, and tomorrow. I only go into my company’s payroll app today when I have a question about what I was paid. I only go to a company-provided training application when I am literally required to do so. If I want to learn something, I start with Google or YouTube or sign up for a course through a MOOC like Coursera or LinkedInLearning. 

Even if a Ginger or Headspace-style solution to employee mental well-being challenges isn’t on a company's horizon, the important lessons are clear. It’s another indication of how quickly work technology is moving thanks to the pandemic.


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