Employees are more stressed than ever. In fact, the World Health Organization calls stress the health epidemic of the 21st century.
At work, it affects a companys bottom line by contributing to a decrease in employee productivity. Employee assistance programs are one way to help employees manage and overcome the issues that are affecting their work performance. However, utilization studies peg average participation in the low double-digits. But, with the help of technology and vested benefit advisers, providers say this rate is bound to rise.
The toll of workplace stress is well known. The 2013 Work Stress Survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Everest College, found that 83% of Americans are stressed by at least one thing at work a 10% rise over the previous years study. And the World Health Organization concludes that stress occurs in a wide range of work circumstances, but is often made worse when employees feel they have little support from supervisors and colleagues, as well as little control over work processes.
Enter the EAP and the growing sophistication of technology. Historically, the two intersected, with technology assisting the functions of data collection and reporting on services, explains Maria Lund, president and COO of First Sun EAP in Columbia, S.C.
More recently, technology moved into assisting client care and outcomes tracking, she says. Its also expanding access to information and services provided by EAPs with online communications, training, interactive services and reporting.
For example, telephonic counseling sessions are favored as a way to avoid logistical hassles, says Steven Hormel, senior benefits analyst at San Leandro, Calif.-based professional employer organization TriNet. Further, secure video counseling and encrypted real-time chats are now options for the delivery of services, he says.
Using technology makes the EAP process hassle free, Hormel explains, as the services can connect users almost instantly or get personalized services completed in a quicker time.
Using mobile platforms also helps attract younger clients who have grown up using and trusting technology or those who are reluctant or unable to travel for services, Lund adds. As with health care in general, technology will open up new opportunities for collecting and analyzing data to better understand best practices.
It makes sense for a broker to work with a provider to add these services, says Adam Myrick, media relations specialist at First Sun EAP. By bringing in an EAP, a broker is acting as a further asset to their client, since the employer benefits with decreased absenteeism in the workplace, Hormel says. But it is key for a broker to help make the selection.
Comparing and selecting the right EAP can be challenging, and assessing the pros and cons of the various delivery methods can be confusing, he says. Brokers are the best bet for purchasers looking to make informed decisions about selecting or designing an effective EAP. Brokers can identify the essential questions to ask during the purchasing process, describe the critical components necessary for a comprehensive EAP service, and offer practical guidelines to help organizations choose an EAP.
An EAP is one of those well-kept secrets because it is there, and something someone finds out during the first couple of days, and then forgets about, Myrick says. We feel it is important to keep that EAP front of mind a role the broker can take on.
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