Combining team and individual digital interventions to promote mental health

by HelloBetter and QED Group teams

The H-Work project aims to evaluate multi-level interventions to promote mental health at work. One focus is on digital health solutions. In the course of the project, forces have been joined to combine the Sociomapping intervention and HelloBetter courses. The combination of Sociomapping as a team-level intervention with the HelloBetter courses on an individual level will allow for cumulative and synergistic effects deriving from the implementation of multilevel workplace mental health interventions.

Sociomapping: what is it?

QED Group is a team of qualified enthusiasts in applied psychology providing companies and individuals with innovative approaches and methods in personal, team and organisational development. Sociomapping is one of the methods that QED has developed. It is a state-of-the-art technology and a key tool to support effective cooperation and communication within teams and across a whole organisation. As the H-work project targets mental health, the design of the has been adapted to focus on mental health topics such as communication, cooperation, workload, or perceived stress. The method allows combining objective and subjective data as well as qualitative and quantitative or verbal and numerical data. Based on quantitative mutual assessment of team members, the sociomapping tool creates graphically simple and well understandable sociomaps in which each member of the team is represented. The interpretation of sociomaps is similar to geographical maps using two parameters – proximity and elevation. Proximity shows the similarity of the points, the closer two points (team members) are on the map, the more similar scores in individual parameters they reached. Elevation represents the overall score of the given team. The higher the elevation the closer the team is to an optimal healthy environment. Index is a weighted average score in individual parameters (e.g. communication, engagement, distress, etc.). The use of sociomaps enables quick orientation even in the analyses of complex systems, and the interpretation is very intuitive for everyone requiring only a brief instruction training.

In the H-work project, each team will complete 3 team coaching sessions based on the sociomapping diagnostic tool. The intervention uses the benefits of team building (it creates a space to spend time together with the team and build better connections), mutual feedback (there is an opportunity to point out important topics in the team), and foster the shared team mental model (the visualization of team functioning helps team members to better understand the ties in the team).

The interventions start with the initial session, which lasts for 3 hours. In the beginning, the focus is on the tool introduction and acquaintance with the sociomapping output. As the first session is focused on the team as a whole, the aim is to reach the optimal state of team functioning by setting up action steps. After three months, the first follow-up session takes place. This session lasts 90 minutes and aims to review action plans from the initial session. It creates a space for feedback on the quality of the cooperation between individual team members one to one. The last session takes place 3 months after the first follow-up session and aims to debrief the development of the team during the past months.

The HelloBetter stress intervention

HelloBetter is a pioneer in the field of e-mental health. HelloBetter’s online courses have been developed and evaluated over many years of research by an interdisciplinary team of psychologists. All products’ effectiveness have been confirmed in at least one clinical study that meets the quality criteria of scientific journals. Overall HelloBetter has over 30 clinical studies in the field, making it the world leader in this segment.

Within the H-Work project, HelloBetter is implementing the HelloBetter stress course as well as the Covid-19 specific adaptation of the course. HelloBetter “Stress Course” is based on proven strategies from cognitive behavioral therapy, and contains a total of 8 online training units of around one hour each. Full of articles, videos, audio content, and exercises, the course is not only demonstrably effective, but fun. Participants will learn about how stress arises in the first place, what their personal stress triggers are, how to solve problems and how to cope with unsolvable problems, and how to deal with negative thoughts and feelings without getting stressed. Using relaxation exercises, quizzes, an online diary, usable at the HelloBetter companion App for apple iOS and Android, practical strategies for everyday life, and much more, participants explore their stress and make changes to their daily routines. Example course participants accompany you through each module, so participants know exactly what to do.

Within the free of charge initiative ‘Calm through the crisis’, HelloBetter developed the ‘Calm through the crisis online course’ and implemented it together with other mental health support like blog articles written by the HelloBetter science editorial team, a closed Facebook Group for Participants and interested, and other useful support, in collaboration with strong partner. The course is based on the stress course and will help strengthen participants’ mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative ‘Calm through the crisis’ has been selected by the World Economic Forum as one of the world’s most outstanding innovations in grappling with the pandemic’s aftermath.

Multi-level interventions

Recent scientific literature promoted the advantages of multi-level interventions in the workplace. Implementing team and individual level interventions to foster mental health at the workplace might provide an added benefit regarding effectiveness of both interventions.

Combing HelloBetter Stress and Sociomapping

Within the first stage of the H-Work project, the HelloBetter-Sociomapping combination will be implemented in two organisations – a SME and a large public hospital. More will follow.

In those two organisations, the implementation of the Sociomapping tool will generate a visual map of the teams’ relationships. Subsequently, feeding these results back to the teams and facilitating the development of action plans will support engagement and collaboration effectiveness within teams, to improve mutual trust among team members and psychosocial safety climate. In parallel, the HelloBetter courses will be implemented. All individual team members and leaders will be invited to participate in the online courses. Here, they will be able to increase their personal resources and learn to better cope with (Covid-19-related) stressors and job demands. We expect that the participation in the HelloBetter stress course will lead to reduced perceived stress, improved health and less anxiety on an individual level – as it has been shown in four scientific trials. Furthermore, we expect that these changes on the individual level will also have a positive impact on the team-level and vice versa.

Scientific evaluation and impact

Within this project, implementation effectiveness research allows for the evaluation of combined intervention impact in real world settings. A scientific evaluation accompanies the intervention implementation to investigate the impact of the combined implementation on the team climate and individual mental health. Also, within a realist evaluation approach, we aim to identify the working mechanisms and contextual factors which influence the specific project outcomes.