Risky addictive behavior in the workplace is costing U.S. employers $400 billion annually in lost productivity and direct health-care expenses. According to a recent Surgeon General’s Report, in 2015 more than 27 million people in the U.S. reported using illegal drugs or misusing prescription drugs, and more than 66 million ─ nearly one-quarter of all adults and adolescents ─ reported binge drinking within the previous month.
Until recently, employers and their HR staffs had few tools or remedies to address this growing problem in the workplace.
To fill the void, two Michigan Wolverines, Lisa McLaughlin and Robin McIntosh, launched Workit Health in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2015. The startup has developed a 90-day adaptive digital recovery program with tailored content and personalized coaching that helps employees kick their addictive habits and stay healthy, productive and employed. Recently, the company moved its headquarters to Ann Arbor.
“Workit Health provides another tool that can reach people who may not be well-matched with face-to-face services, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and in-patient treatment facilities,” explains McLaughlin, the company’s CEO. “We work both with corporate employers and health-insurance-company resellers, and focus on some of the harder-hit sectors, such as the legal profession, manufacturing, the hospitality industry and health care.”
Currently, Workit Health has 45 customers nationwide in its pipeline, including Michigan-based Steelcase, and 11,000 individuals have coverage for the program through their employers. The Workit Program has been proven effective in reducing addiction, based on the results of a consumer study of 303 individuals conducted by the company.
“We had a 39 percent engagement rate and of those individuals, there was an 80 percent reduction in use of alcohol and addictive substances,” McLaughlin reports. “That is really good in our space.” Workit Health won the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition IP Sector award in 2015 and the People’s Choice award in 2016. Recently, the startup hired 75 coaches and landed a sizeable National Science Foundation SBIR award to continue its development.
Last May, Workit Health participated as a presenting company at the 2016 Michigan Growth Capital Symposium, where McLaughlin connected with an investor who agreed to participate in a $2 million seed round of funding. The deal, expected to close by mid-January, brings the company’s total fundraising to $3.1 million. The new seed investment will support a marketing rollout to large health-insurance companies, which can resell the Workit Program to their commercial clients.
“The coaching we received from the MGCS staff helped our company refine its investor-facing value proposition,” McLaughlin says. “Our own traction is what put us over the top.”