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The workplace is changing. What about your EAP?

Ensuring organizational health and wellness is no easy feat even in ordinary times, with COVID-19 likely to leave a lasting mark on the workforce who lived it. Moving a newly distributed workforce online was only the first hurdle; employers are now faced with the impact that a prolonged period of uncertainty, stress and isolation had on employees’ mental health and wellbeing. Employee assistance programs (EAP) can help mitigate this impact [1], but they too need to adapt in order to match the new reality of today’s employees.

What is an EAP?

An employee assistance program is a work-based intervention program designed to address various personal and employment related issues that can compromise an employee’s ability to perform at work. Commonly included as part of employee benefit packages, these programs can provide support for a wide range of challenges, from mental health, relationship, financial and legal issues, to struggles with substance abuse. EAPs can even help with stress management and provide tips on how to achieve a better work-life balance [2].

Traditionally, EAPs employ a reactive approach to employee wellness. Complementary to in-house human resources, EAPs are often provided through an external vendor, connecting employees by phone or web portal to a bank of resources that can assist them in navigating personal or work-related issues. These services can vary depending on the type of plan offered by the employer and are typically considered as a last resort.

In the context of the pandemic, however, EAPs had to evolve to meet a growing demand for more proactive mental health support. They also had to increase access through digital channels such as chat, video calls and even self-serve wellness tools, to help meet the growing demand for active support. According to a report published by Microsoft, about half of Canadian employees are experiencing notable exhaustion and stress, making them at much greater risk of burnout, which is the biggest issue facing employers in 2022[3]. Given that each individual can experience events in different ways, offering a personalized approach to care and wellness can be a game-changer for overall organizational health.

An EAP that goes the extra mile.

In order to meet the demands of a digital workforce, benefits providers face the challenge of matching the convenience, flexibility and seamless experience that employees expect from any other lifestyle application available on their devices. The rise of virtual care technology during the pandemic, for instance, set the stage for new innovations in organizational wellness tools such as TELUS Health LifeJourneyTM.

From a single convenient digital app, employees and their families can connect with a compassionate care advocate through encrypted video call, 24/7, from anywhere in Canada. Once their situation is assessed, a care advocate establishes a personalized care plan and the employee will use this same mobile app to connect with the healthcare professionals they need. Offered through TELUS Health Virtual Care, LifeJourney is a first-of-its-kind EAP to offer both a fully integrated and human centric virtual health service as well as work/life balance and wellbeing resources for employees in one single digital app. 

In addition to providing care and mental health support to individual employees, it also offers customizations such as Personal Crisis Management.

Planning for the future.

A survey by Morneau Shepell Ltd. found 34% of employees felt the mental health resources provided by their employer were inconsistent or poor. And even when employers did offer mental-health support services, 60% of employees wouldn’t access them, either because they didn’t know what was available to them or the offering didn’t include the professionals they wanted to access.

Given the growing need for mental health support within organizations and the often-complex nature of mental illness, implementing a robust safety net such as an EAP is an investment that will help provide sustainable support to employees even as we move to living with COVID-19. If your workplace is adapting to the new normal, make sure your EAP is doing the same.

As part of our commitment to making healthcare more accessible, TELUS Health Virtual Care offers your employees on-demand virtual care service and employee assistance features, all with an enhanced focus on genuine human connections at every step of their journey. Learn more about LifeJourney and show your employees that they’re your #1 asset. 

This article was originally posted on June 11, 2021, and has since been updated.