A 2016 Employee Benefits report found that 77% of employers offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to their employees. An EAP is often focused on providing face-to-face therapy to support at-risk employees to deal with personal or work-related problems. It’s not uncommon for this kind of EAP support to be the only form of ongoing mental health support offered to employees.
Is offering an employee assistance program like this enough to make lasting change for mental health at work?
Human Resources Professionals must navigate how they can offer the best support for their employees within a range of limiting factors that determine its availability and success.
A key factor in the mental health and safety of a workplace is leadership. Without ample support from leadership and management, it is very difficult to enact change that is proactive and long term. A very important shift within the modern leader will be integrating strategies that improves employee wellbeing into strategic organizational goals. In this way, companies may be able to shift away from work-life balance and move towards work-life integration, where personal and professional needs can be met in tandem rather than in competition with each other.
Despite the need for a proactive and innovative mindset from modern leaders, some early intervention employee assistance programs may also assist companies to make lasting change. By improving accessibility and encouraging investment into employee wellbeing, EAP can work in tandem with strategic wellbeing goals to maximize impact that is strategically relevant.
In tandem with supportive leadership is the availability of funding and the incentive for investing into programs that specifically target mental health. Most employee assistance programs offer a fixed fee for the provision of services to based on company size, with discounts for larger organizations. However, more modern employee assistance program allow employers to instead pay based on active users and even cap the number of sessions an employee is immediately eligible for.
A key issue that consistently increases the investment required of employers for mental health is the expensive and lengthy costs of reactive counselling. When an employee has reached a point of significant crisis, the time taken for treatment and recovery is significantly longer than if proactive support had been offered initially. Reactive support is not only cost ineffective but is also limiting in only providing support after an employee has suffered substantially. However, early intervention employee assistance programs like Uprise work to provide a full spectrum of support that additionally targets employees before they are in crisis. Uprise offers employees wanting to improve their mental wellbeing some skills training that provides them with a full suite of tools to cope with life’s stressors.
One of the main requests of human resources professionals is that support is extremely accessible with very quick response times and action in times of crisis. However, this often contradicts the traditional employee assistance program model where employees must wait to meet face to face with a counsellor at a pre-booked appointment. Plus, this appointment is traditionally arranged from within the company creating a significant barrier to seeking support due to fears of workplace involvement.
It is vital that modern employee assistance programs offer a range of different support channels that allows access to individuals with different learning styles and preferences. Uprise Health offers coaching support via online chat, phone call, video call as well as face-to-face counselling. Plus, there is the option for employees to work through an online self-guided program that trains them in skills that will improve their wellbeing and ability to cope with stressors. This kind of access is accommodating for those concerned with confidentiality or who are embarrassed to interact directly with a counsellor or manager regarding their mental health. It also provides highly flexible access to all employees both inside and outside of working hours and includes those working in remote teams.
Finally, the impact of an employee assistance program is a key indicator often offered to leadership in order to encourage or continue investment into workplace wellbeing. However, it is also one of the most difficult things to measure and quantify in a way that is meaningful to employers. Most employee assistance programs offer utilization rates, a figure which can often be confusing to interpret. Is high utilization of a mental health program good or bad? Is it because my workplace is a bad place to work or because more people need support and now can easily access it?
Without understanding these metrics, it’s very difficult for employers to understand the usefulness of their employee assistance program. Uprise aims to provide more useful metrics to show the effectiveness of proactive programs by revealing the changes that occur for employees before and after participating in the program. Users are assessed on their wellbeing and stress, turnover and mental health risk as well as on factors that are causing them stress before and after the program. This allows direct measurement of how the program positively influences these factors and demonstrates to top leadership the value in the program. Plus, a range of testimonials after completion show the real human impact Uprise has on the lives of many employees. Try a free online demo.