The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the demand for specialized employee support. Dialogue’s stress and mental health program was introduced to Digital Extremes employees in May 2020, and the company quickly saw the positive impact of these services. With a strong professional support network at their disposal, employees now have the hands-on tools and strategies to help improve their mental health when they need it most and with the most ease ever!
Digital Extremes is one of the world’s top independent game development studios in the interactive media industry. They currently have over 370 highly specialized employees in their workforce.
In the turbulent wake of COVID-19, employers were faced with unprecedented health and wellness challenges that came to surface among employees including isolation, lack of human connection and lack of workplace comradery. HR and Leaders needed to find the right resources and support to help employees cope with this new “normal”.
During the unprecedented times, many employees turned to the organization to help them navigate the uncertain waters of working full-time from home and other challenges they experienced due to the pandemic. “We needed to quickly pivot and ensure our employees had the resources they needed to manage through these challenging times,” said Heidi Flynn, Direct of Human Resources at Digital Extremes.
In our industry, it’s common that most employees spend the majority of their day in front of a computer and are therefore more comfortable communicating through text or virtually. We had an EAP program in place and employees used a 1-800 number in order for them to get a referral. With the increased volume of requests, the wait time to see a therapist grew longer and longer and the right resources at times were not available.
While the goal of an EAP is to provide short-term professional support, it was not the right platform, and the experience wasn’t well suited for Digital Extremes employees.
For Digital Extremes, investing in Dialogue’s stress and mental health and well-being program was about revisiting their current platform and adapting to what needed to change to help their employees in an unprecedented time of need. “No one was prepared for what COVID would bring or how we would need to adapt to it,” Flynn said.
As it turned out, many employees struggled with the sudden drastic change, and some were significantly impacted personally by the pandemic. “We had employees (as we all did) now needing to navigate not being able to attend funerals or visit family in retirement homes or hospitals. These were unique times with new COVID-19 restrictions in place that we needed to navigate. Often, we’d be on a video call with an employee and we’d immediately encourage them to try using Dialogue,” Flynn said.
Dialogue’s virtual healthcare platform provided quick access to a team of mental and medical health specialists for the employee demographic. For them, the most appealing part of Dialogue’s mental health and well-being was the ease of accessing help virtually through computer or phone from the comfort of their home.
Employees could book appointments directly in the app at the time that worked best for them (and within days, not weeks or months), and were not limited to a set number of therapy sessions. The Dialogue care team would then help them set up a therapy plan based on mutually agreed upon objectives. For employees who were more comfortable taking a self-guided approach, a stress test and wellness guide with a number of tips and activities to try were available on the app.
“We were trying to meet the needs of our employees and determine what had the most value for them and that was Dialogue,” Flynn stated.
Digital Extremes knows that more meaningful perks and resources would likely be more highly valued among their employees. This is evident in the employee utilization rate of 41% according to Dialogue’s engagement reporting.
It was important to Digital Extremes to make sure that their employees had access to mental health resources, particularly during the holidays which many staff members would spend alone due to the travel restrictions of the pandemic. “We're living in a different world now, and this service has been critical for us,” said Flynn.
“I don't think companies will truly understand what the value of Dialogue is until they have it in place,” remarked Flynn.
“Our HR team started to see a positive change soon after implementing Dialogue’s program. The value that we get with Dialogue, the engagement reports, the updates, and the constant communication is critical in how we make decisions for the business. The most important impact for us as an organization is the positive feedback and the difference Dialogue has had on our employees.”
Dialogue’s mental health team is specialized and equipped to bring meaningful value to employees. Not only is this more scalable, but sustainable through increased periods of need.
“We're constantly reevaluating our strategy and researching what is new in the market,” Flynn says. “This is why Dialogue has become so valuable. I share the reports with our Senior Leadership team to paint a more vivid picture of Dialogue utilization rates and satisfaction scores to demonstrate the return on investment we are getting with this program.”
With a clear support structure, quick and easy access to mental health support, and seeing the positive outcomes Dialogue’s program has brought to their employees so far, Digital Extremes’ HR team can actively promote the importance of taking care of one’s mental health and to proactively get help when needed from Dialogue. For example, to kick off the program, they held a contest where whoever of their staff watched the webinar was put into a draw for Amazon gift cards which boosted the participation rate immensely.
They also chose to repurpose Dialogue’s educational material and communicate it on Slack, their internal messaging tool, to remind everyone of the importance of mental health and what they had access to through the program.
Dialogue’s mental health program for many has helped improve the productivity levels of employees by enabling them to better manage the challenges that emerged because of the pandemic, and deal with the changes that the pandemic has brought to us all.
“A couple of months into the pandemic, we realized that a solution and a strong support system with the necessary expertise was needed for our employees.
At that time, over 80% of the team’s day was spent talking to employees and helping them with their individual needs, particularly concerning family situations whether it be to navigate those in retirement homes, changes to bereavement/funeral services, elder care, remote learning for children, etc.”
“We quickly realized we needed to find a platform that could provide the expertise to help out our employees in the most effective and efficient way,” Flynn explained.