Employees can often receive treatment from their boss.  Or do they have to undergo treatment by their boss?

Employees can often receive treatment from their boss. Or do they have to undergo treatment by their boss?

Pauline’s picture is nothing

When Mike Van Fleet, 37, felt less euphoric last year than he used to, he decided to make an appointment with one of the psychiatrists provided by his employer and all his colleagues. Van Fleet is the manager of two KPN stores, a job he talks about with passion. In the past year that job satisfaction has decreased. “I’ve become a weirdo.”

The recent lockdown has just ended, and the whole community has opened up again. Van Fleet noted that he was stuck with his busy job and the time he wanted to spend with his partner, friends, and in the gym. “I pushed myself and didn’t know how to get out of it.” And so he booked an online session with a psychologist. He was able to go the same day. “During that first conversation, I asked, ‘Do you love yourself?’ Then the tears came.

Gym pass, fresh fruit in the canteen, mental health course at the manager’s expense: Employers have been concerned about the health of their employees for some time. In recent years, the psychologist has been added to that group. A growing range of employers — from schools to construction companies and banks — are using online therapists, often following the American model. The basic idea: Those who feel good do better.

Although occupational psychologists see a benefit in this, there are criticisms as well. For example, Professor Emeritus of Work Psychology Wilmar Schauvelli from Utrecht University says: “You can’t overload people and then send them to a psychologist. “The focus should always be on improving the working situation first.”

“GGZ is too slow”

What mental health care looks like at work in practice depends on who provides it. For example, Psyned, a commercial welfare organization to which three hundred psychologists are affiliated, focuses on employees who have dropped out due to psychological complaints such as depression. They receive an average of ten sessions with a psychologist. Employer costs: around 1,500 euros per track.

“The mental health care system is very slow and unwieldy and you often have to wait a long time for a health and safety doctor,” explains Patrick Callahan, Director of Psyned. “We doubled last year and are now doing business with about seven hundred companies.”

With the smaller OneSession, companies buy a subscription or pass for a number of sessions. With a code, employees can then anonymously schedule an appointment for a one-hour online therapy session, regardless of their concern. “People come to us with sleep problems, for example, because they want to be more assertive or because they are having trouble with a particular colleague,” says the Helen van Empel Foundation.

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Pauline’s picture is nothing

Mindler, originally a Swedish company that has been providing psychiatric care online in the Netherlands for a few years, has also had a corporate branch since last year. Employees can use the app with self-help programs and can have up to five conversations with a psychologist each year. It is related to minor psychological complaints such as “problems with Work life balance or processing grief,” says Mendler’s Taco Oerlemans. The conversations are anonymous: The employer is told only how many employees have used the service.

The store manager, Mike van Vliet, can use the Dutch company OpenUp through his employer, which, in addition to sessions with a psychologist, also offers all kinds of self-help programs (“How do I deal with loss?”) and group lessons (“Understanding Your Emotions”) via Internet.

Anonymity guaranteed

De Efteling, KPN, McDonald’s and VanMoof: about 750 employers use OpenUp which has been around for four years. Costs: 50 euros per year per employee. ‘Some companies are buying the family package,’ says founder Gijs Coppens.Mercy Chamber(“We use positive psychology terminology here”) – A glassed-in office at the top of the spacious building on the Kalverstraat where OpenUp is located. With the family package, the partner and children can also benefit from psychological assistance. As with most other providers, those who report to OpenUp with serious problems will be referred to specialist care.

What about privacy? OpenUp sends employers monthly user reports that contain “valuable information” about your team’s mental health, according to the website. Coppins maintains anonymity when asked. Data is only shared from large groups. “This is our advantage: We are not an occupational health and safety service, and we do not have to provide feedback to our employer about the conversations we are having.”

Nothing Pauline's picture nothing

Pauline’s picture is nothing

It’s no surprise to Noortje Wiezer that more and more employers are paying attention to what’s going on between their employees’ ears. Wiezer is a researcher at TNO, specializing in employee health. She says that absenteeism due to work pressure has been increasing in the Netherlands for years. In recent decades, work has become less physically demanding but more mentally demanding, in part because it is increasingly easier to do work from the phone in the evenings or on weekends.

that it Let’s see again In the annual national survey on working conditions of Statistics Netherlands and TNO. Of all employees who reported falling ill in 2021 due to work conditions (“work absenteeism”), 15 percent said this was because the work was too physically demanding. Nearly 37 percent said they were sick at home due to work stress and work stress.

Since people with psychiatric complaints are often absent for a relatively long period of time, this is a major cost item. They cost Dutch employers at least €3 billion annually, TNO estimates.

‘Look at the organization first’

Weezer says psychological complaints at work can stem from private problems and the work itself. This makes the topic complicated. However, scientists do have a “good picture” of harmful factors in the workplace. For example, if a lot of people are asked on a structural basis and at the same time they don’t have much to say about how they go about their work. But also if an unsafe culture exists, or if employees also have to be present outside of their working hours.

This is what employers should work on first, Weiser says. “I don’t want to say that the treatment for employees clears as soon as you click on it, because individually anyone can really benefit from it, but it does look a little similar to it.” The researcher admits that addressing structural problems is often more difficult than with mental help. “But you’re going to help more people with that.”

Scheufele, professor of work psychology, agrees. “You should always look at the business and the organization first before messing with people.”

“My company messes it up and I can go to the psychologist, that’s definitely my problem.” Helen Van Embel, founder of OneSession, once had a conversation with an angry employee who started his therapy session with this phrase. “I can imagine this reaction. And it is true: if as an institution you only provide individual psychological assistance, then it makes no sense.

When she starts working for a new organization, Van Empel also enters into discussions with the human resources department, she says. “To hear what’s going on, what they’re actually doing and how we fit that in.” In separate conversations with employees who, for example, are burdened by an eccentric supervisor, she tries to give them advice on how to address their problems. “Sometimes the conclusion is: I’m no longer in the right place here.”

OpenUp’s Gijs Coppens gets the impression that the companies that use his services are already busy creating a good workplace. Moreover: “If your employer makes unrealistic demands, they quickly become part of the conversation you’re having.” Good psychology offers insight, says Coppins, a health psychologist. “An insight like that could be that some things in the workplace are not good for you and that you want to do something about it.”

Fear of the suction effect

Meanwhile, Kristen Huber worries about the impact of suction on an already overburdened mental health care system. Huber is a psychotherapist and president of the Dutch Psychotherapy Association (NVP). It’s positive, she says, that employers are taking more responsibility for employee well-being. It can work preventively.

Hooper: ‘But we’ve already seen for some time a tendency that people no longer take up minor issues with friends or in church, but with the psychologist. We as a society cannot afford this and it is at the expense of people with more serious psychological problems. The danger is also that you make people more quickly or unnecessarily dependent on care in this way.

According to Taco Oerlemans of Mindler, the impact of withdrawal on healthcare isn’t going to happen that quickly. “I actually think we’re removing people from health care by treating staff with minor complaints.”

This is in line with what manager Mike Van Fleet saw last year. Five of his colleagues have already spoken to a psychologist after he recommended it. For example, they had an annoying thing to play in private, or had difficulty with changes at work. I’ve often seen them get better after just one session.

The same goes for himself. After three conversations with a psychologist, he felt much better. “My job satisfaction has returned.” He is still thinking about that question the psychiatrist asked him the first time, whether he loved himself. ‘What does that actually mean?’ I don’t have an answer yet, but I prefer to be with myself: go to bed on time, and get up early so I can exercise. This helps.’

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