Continued uncertainty and ever-evolving scenarios since the start of COVID-19 have brought about both personal and workplace mental health stressors. In 2021, almost 47 million Americans quit their jobs due to mental health reasons. This is yet another reason why we are seeing more companies prioritizing overall employee and work environment health. So how do we keep employees engaged no matter what their mental health looks like? Traditionally, mental health lives within an EAP provider. They provide businesses and their employees’ resources for broad use cases, not limited to but including mental health. However, due to the changing dynamic of organizational mental health that has been exacerbated through the pandemic, a recent study suggests many HR leaders are looking to revamp their EAP programs in 2022 and implement an employee wellbeing strategy.
What EAPs offer, and what their limitations are
Employee assistance programs are great for providing comprehensive resources. Whether it’s financial wellbeing, physical health and nutrition, or family/social supports, an EAP offers a one-stop-shop for employers to cover a breadth of workforce supports.
However, several issues sit within the engagement and usability of the EAPs to action real-time change in individuals. It’s widely reported that average employee utilization of EAPs sits under 10%. Some common factors of the low utilization include:
- Mental health resources are illness-based and focused on mental wellbeing, perpetuating stigma and alienating a larger employee population
- Lack of awareness of EAPs and where to access them
- Lack of timely access to counsellors. In some cases, it can take well over a week to get connected.
- The stigma of accessing counsellors still exists, limiting reach and efficacy to a wider base of employees.
With such a vast range of content and supports, EAPs tend to be perceived as a ‘checkbox’ solution, introduced in the HR welcome package and long forgotten about after the fact. EAPs are also widely interpreted as resources that employees access when they’re in difficulty or distress. As we know with our mental health: it entails far more than ‘crisis’. A simple breathing exercise or running critical thoughts through a ‘thinking tool’ might be the perfect recipe for a day of anxiousness or feeling down.
The point is: in-the-moment tools can help curb a person’s situation from worsening, whereas being connected with a counsellor one week later is less conducive to the needs of a growing employee population.
How companies have shifted to improve employee engagement
Now more than ever, top level execs and HR departments are aware of the importance of ensuring the workforce has proper tools for employees to stay engaged with EAPs and adjacent programs. Employees walking into companies now expect a benefits suite that factors in their mental wellbeing. Here are the crucial steps to ensure that your organization’s wellbeing programs meet your employees’ expectations.
Leaders need to buy in
Without leadership buy-in that mental health needs to be a total workforce priority, program efficacy will suffer. Improving your employees’ mental health is not a one and done deal, but leadership making it a priority (and even showing vulnerability) is a crucial first step.
Keep employees in the loop
Another facet is engaging with your employees for their collaboration and feedback. After all, employee assistance resources are for every individual in the company. Speaking with staff to see what will help them should ultimately aid the organization in saving time and money in the long run. A great way to conquer employee engagement is through Harvard Business Review’s 5Cs: communication, coordination, connection, creativity, and culture. The 5Cs essentially encourage organized and open conversations with all employees. Some examples include topic-led Q&A sessions with the CEO, virtual office hours with senior leaders, and the inclusion of anonymous surveys. Implementing dialogue through all levels is the new norm to boost employee morale and engagement.
Incorporate the right tools for your workforce
What else are companies doing to prioritize employee mental health engagement? Investing in the right programs and tools for your company. EAPs are part of the equation, but they’re an incomplete part of a total mental health strategy. Managers and HR leaders need to consider additional proactive tools that offer actionable and real-time changes, in the flow of work. Adding new programs doesn’t have to be difficult, they should easily integrate with and improve your organization’s EAP.
Revamping your company’s EAP strategy will become an essential step in keeping your employees engaged, mentally well-versed, and involved in organizational mental health programs. The addition of new tools should consistently encourage employees to stay proactively engaged when improving their personal and professional mental wellbeing.
Interested in learning more about how headversity can improve employee wellbeing and complement your EAP-led strategy? Connect with us and book a demo!