Evidence That WorkGuru Reduces Levels of Depression, Anxiety and Stress: Results from a Randomised Controlled Trial

Most of you who read this blog will know that WorkGuru is an eight-week stress management program that is delivered via the Internet. It uses elements of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), positive psychology and mindfulness to help reduce feelings of depression, anxiety and stress. People access the self-help program alongside support from an e-coach.

It is really important to us at WorkGuru that we can provide evidence that what we do is effective. In the same way as you would expect the medication that you receive from your doctor to be thoroughly tested and found effective for your health condition, we expect the same rigorous standard to be applied to digital mental health. There has been growing concern amongst researchers that many of the apps available for people experiencing mental health problems do not publish any evidence for their claims which is one reason why we conducted a randomised controlled trial and published the results in a peer review academic journal. Our founder Stephany Carolan led the trial; as well as developing WorkGuru Stephany is also a doctoral researcher at the University of Sussex. Her research interest is how we increase take-up and engagement with digital mental health in the workplace.

The primary purpose of the trial was to see if people who used WorkGuru alongside an online facilitated discussion group accessed the intervention more than people who accessed WorkGuru with just an e-coach. Secondary measures were included in the study to see if access to WorkGuru reduced levels of depression, anxiety and stress.

Six UK organisations agreed to take part in the study. Two of the organisations were local authorities, two were universities, one was a third sector organisation and one was a telecommunication organisation. The participating organisations recruited 84 individuals who were randomised into one of three groups: WorkGuru with and without a discussion group, and a control group who had access to WorkGuru after the 16-week study.

The primary findings of the study was that the group that accessed WorkGuru with a discussion group did login more to the program but compared to the group that accessed WorkGuru without a discussion group, they didn’t have lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress and they weren’t more satisfied with the intervention. Two explanations for these findings are that the numbers of participants in the online groups were low so the groups were not operating at their optimum number, and that many participants had to wait for their group to start; both of these elements could have led to dissatisfaction and may have resulted in people disengaging from the groups.

Secondary findings were that after both eight weeks and at the twelve weeks follow-up both groups that had access to WorkGuru had lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress when compared to the control group. This suggests that WorkGuru is effective at lowering levels of psychological distress. Satisfaction with WorkGuru was high with 76% of users rating the intervention as excellent or good.

The results of this trial are published in an open access journal so you can read them for yourself. The full citation for the paper is:

Carolan, S., Harris, P. R., Greenwood, K., & Cavanagh, K. (2017). Increasing engagement with an occupational digital stress management program through the use of an online facilitated discussion group: Results of a pilot randomised controlled trial. Internet Interventions VL –, 10 IS –, 1–11.

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