Statistics say that one in four Americans struggle with mental illness, and 40% of millennials are reporting anxiety. This certainly impacts your employees. With millennials expected to make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025, the question on every HR leader’s mind today is – can my traditional Employee Assistance Program (EAP) fill the mental health needs of my employees, or do we need to offer more comprehensive mental health benefits?
There is a lot to consider. EAPs come with both pluses and minuses. We recently shared some of the Benefits of an Effective Employee Assistance Program (Infographic). Hartin Dynamics also collaborates with the National Center for Performance Health to help our clients explore their options for providing employee benefits with respect to mental health. Now, we want to share some additional insights specifically on EAPs.
WHAT IS AN EAP?
As defined by SHRM, an employee assistance program (EAP) is a work-based intervention program designed to assist employees in resolving personal problems that may be adversely affecting the employee’s performance. EAPs traditionally have assisted workers with issues such as alcohol or substance abuse; however, most EAP services now cover a broad range of issues such as child or elder care, relationship challenges, financial or legal problems, wellness matters, and traumatic events.
These programs are delivered at no cost to employees by third-party EAP vendors or providers who are part of comprehensive health insurance plans. Services can be delivered via phone, video-based counseling, online chatting, e-mail interactions, or face-to-face. An EAP may also include a wide array of other services, such as nurse advice lines, basic legal assistance, or adoption assistance. EAP services are usually made available not only to the employee, but also to the employee’s spouse, children, and non-marital partner living in the same household as the employee.
EAP CONSIDERATIONS FOR EMPLOYERS
EAPs have been found to save companies money when facing issues such as lack of productivity, employees with substance abuse issues, or high absenteeism. EAPs have been linked to a 70% increase in productivity and 39% decrease in absenteeism.
However, there are some potential drawbacks for some businesses utilizing EAPs. Small companies or companies not doing well financially might see the EAP as an unnecessary benefit and additional cost – especially if they feel these services are available through the behavioral health program. Additionally, some EAP vendors offer better programs than others. If you are involved in selecting a program, make sure you consider how many EAP sessions are offered. Ask about counselors’ credentials. View the reporting available. Ask about the EAPs follow-up and follow-through for new cases.
One alternative to EAPs is the implementation of workplace wellness programs. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, workplace health (or wellness) programs are “a coordinated and comprehensive set of health promotion and protection strategies implemented at the worksite that includes programs, policies, benefits, environmental supports, and links to the surrounding community designed to encourage the health and safety of all employees.” The programs are a comprehensive approach to addressing multiple risk factors concurrently. For a workplace health program to influence health, it needs to contain a combination of individual- and organization-level strategies. Alternative solutions can stand on their own or be a portion of a workplace wellness program, adding to the multilevel nature of successful programs.
ADDITIONAL PROGRAMS TO EXPLORE
An article featured in ebn (Employee Benefits News) recently explained, “While employers have offered employee assistance program services for years and provide comprehensive mental health coverage in their benefit plans, WHO data found that only 60% of those who need help seek help. But it’s not all doom and gloom, as leading employers are addressing this issue and making progress. We can all learn from their progressive programs.”
Hartin Dynamics can advise employers on many of these innovative options, helping employers to create a culture that reinforces the importance of addressing mental health issues. This type of culture evolves from caring for and supporting employees by breaking down stigmas, improving acceptance, and showing awareness. Here are some examples of ways employers are stepping up to offer more thoughtful approaches to mental health issues.
- Holistic wellness programs that integrate broad strategies
- Offering resilience training
- Connectivity to group support resources
- Awareness initiatives to help identify depression
- Find ways to foster an environment that normalized mental health conversations
- Train supervisors on emotional intelligence
- Include behavioral care in employee health benefits
- Provide access to technology-enabled care, such as virtual therapy sessions
There is still plenty of work to be done, but we see more employers are recognizing the need to go above and beyond their EAP. We are here to help guide employers as they consider the options, both traditional and emerging. Let’s talk about how we can help.