Since Oct. 1, the 10,600 employees of Florida Power and Light have been using their computers as an outlet for handling emotional upheaval.
The Juno Beach-based utility isn't encouraging the playing of shoot-'em-up games on company time or throwing computers out the window. Instead, an Internet site called MasteringStress.com is providing a form of online psychotherapy as a new employee benefit.
Florida Power and Light is paying for employees to log on to the Web site to use its specialized software to cope with bouts of depression, anger and other emotional turmoil.
"We're looking at different ways to offer assistance programs to our employees," said Andrew Schibelli, manager of the utility's wellness programs.
Schibelli's company isn't alone in looking for a cost-efficient way to manage its employees' stress.
According to Med Matrx, a healthcare benefits consulting firm in Orange, N.J., MasteringStress.com is being tested by two of its clients, both Fortune 100 companies. Med Matrx declined to name the companies.
Cost appears to be the biggest attraction for the employers.
MasteringStress.com charges $3 per person per year for Florida Power and Light to access its services, for a total annual cost of $120,000 for its 40,000 employees and dependents. That's vs. the $60 to $100 per session charged by a typical psychotherapist in an urban area.
The MasteringStress.com home page touts itself as a "30-day stress management program." It has four categories: identifying signs of stress; helping users take care of themselves; resolving problems; and addressing tensions that arise in relationships. Members sign on and answer questions to identify the issues troubling them. The software then helps users construct a dialogue they can use in real life.
"This has been organized as a self-help program, but it's also a self-directed care program," said Roger Gould, M.D., chief executive officer of Interactive Health Systems, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based company that created MasteringStress.com.
"The computer and the Internet (are) an ideal delivery system," said Gould, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute.