Slideshow 6 trends affecting employee assistance programs

Published
  • March 28 2016, 3:16am EDT

6 trends affecting employee assistance programs

The employee assistance, organizational health and workplace productivity industries are becoming more complex and sophisticated, says Todd Donaldson, director of training and development at EAP provider Chestnut Global Partners. In an annual report, Donaldson’s firm outlines six major trends affecting the industry.

On these products, brokers need to start “asking a few questions on how services are …. delivered and how we measure whether those services actually make a difference and improve things,” Donaldson says. “There is a lot of PR and smoke and mirrors [in this field.] As with any benefit, there is a deeper story that we want to make sure people understand and comprehend.”

1. Increased demand for EAP services due to occupational stress

The number of EAP cases for occupational stress (job satisfaction, workload, co-worker conflict), was sixth on CGP’s list, breaking into the top seven for the first time ever in its annual report, and representing a 15% increase in the number of EAP cases due to occupational stress compared with 2013.

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2. Top five reasons for accessing EAP

In the annual report, the top five reasons that an employee accessed EAP services remained the same as the previous two years: Stress, relationships, child behavior, anxiety and depression.

3. Recognition of relationship between fatigue and workplace safety increases

Initial efforts to manage worker fatigue over a decade ago focused on limiting the maximum number of hours worked per day/week. However, these efforts have been shown to be inadequate, Donaldson says, because they fail to address the behavioral, lifestyle and medical conditions that commonly contribute to fatigue. In the last 3-4 years, the concept of an integrated ‘fatigue risk management systems’ program “has begun to establish itself as the gold standard for reducing organizational risk caused by worker fatigue and a number of industries have implemented one or more of its components,” Donaldson explains.

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4. Employee engagement initiatives are having limited impact

In the last decade, employee engagement has shown little improvement despite the deployment of significant resources by many organizations, says Richard Lennox, CGP’s research psychologist. A 2015 Gallup poll found that only 32% of U.S. employees are engaged, a statistic that has remained relatively unchanged in the past 15 years.

“What is still needed is to provide employees with the tools for change such as a curriculum that specifies the reason why employees should be concerned about their personal work engagement and a method by which they can direct their own improvement in that area,” Lennox adds.

5. Utilization of mobile health apps increased

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, behavior is the leading determinant of an individual's health. As a result, employers and health professionals are looking for new and innovative approaches to help individuals develop a healthier lifestyle. “The use of technology apps is one approach being increasingly used,” says Pam Kouri, CGP’s director of health and wellness. In the past two years, the volume of commercialized mobile health applications has more than doubled to more than 100,000 apps, according to the Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

However, “while the capability to connect so many individuals to so much information has never been greater, published research is limited as to whether these apps actually improve health outcomes in a meaningful or sustainable way,” Kouri says.

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6. Companies are seeking global EAP services

In 2015, the number of inquiries CGP received for a request for global EAP services increased nearly 25%. The changes were largely driven by a desire for procurement departments to streamline administrative processes, ongoing mergers and acquisitions that result in a desire to provide consistency across counties and an increased awareness of service capabilities in emerging markets, says CGP’s Chief Clinical Officer Dave Sharar.