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Workplace Drug Use: Think It’s Not A Problem For You?

If today’s employers are finding that employee engagement is especially low, it may be because some of their employees are high. A new study released this summer by Quest Diagnostics, a provider of diagnostic information services, reveals that workplace drug use is the highest it’s been in more than a decade.

While prescription opioid rates have declined sharply across the nation, the on-the-job use of cocaine, amphetamines and marijuana has risen sharply, especially in certain regions. Here are a few specific findings from the Quest Diagnostics study:

  • Cocaine use has increased for the fifth consecutive year, including double-digit year-over-year increases in Nebraska, Idea, Washington, Nevada, Maryland and Wisconsin.
  • Between 2013 and 2017, methamphetamine use has increased 167% in parts of the Midwest, 160% in parts of the South, 150% in areas of the Northeast and 140% in the Southwest.

If you still think drug use has yet to reach your employees, consider these disturbing stats from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence:

  • 70% of the estimated 14.8 million Americans who use illegal drugs are employed.
  • Of those 70%, more than 42% admit that their work productivity suffers due to their use.

“The significant drop in opiate use is a promising sign,” said Matt Nieman, General Counsel, Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace. “Yet, the ten-year high rates serves as a stark warning that efforts to prevent substance abuse in the workplace are as important today as ever.”

The Opioid Problem is Not Over

The drop in opioid use doesn’t mean the opioid problem has gone away. Opioid prescriptions have nearly quadrupled since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the drugs legitimately help people manage pain, they are also still very addictive. The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides plenty of scary facts to illustrate our point:

  • Roughly 21 to 29% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
  • Between 8 and 12% develop an opioid use disorder.
  • An estimated 4 to 6% who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.
  • Every day, more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids.

Drug Use is Expensive, Too

These trends aren’t just disturbing on a human level. They’re costing employers – and society at large – a lot of money. Crain’s Detroit Business points out that, in 2013, opioid abuse alone cost businesses $16.3 billion just in disability claims and lowered productivity.

Tess Benham, of the National Safety Council, reminds us there’s also a high cost in absenteeism. Where the average worker misses about ten days per year, those abusing pain medication or using heroin miss an average of 29 days of work per year.

When you consider the combination of lowered productivity, higher health care, substance abuse treatment costs and missed work, you have a total economic burden of $78.5 billion, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Curtis S. Florence, who led the research, adds, “And that’s definitely a conservative estimate.”

What Can Employers Do to Help?

Common sense says that employers need to be part of the solution. First, however, they need to admit there’s a problem. In a survey by the National Safety Council, seven in ten employers reported on-the-job drug abuse issues ranging from absenteeism to overdose. Yet, only 24% said it was an issue.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence  has some clear, practical advice for employers, all centered on encouraging and supporting treatment. Here are some specific ways they say employers can address substance use and abuse in the workplace:

  • Implement a drug-free workplace and other substance abuse policies.
  • Offer health benefits that provide comprehensive coverage for substance use disorders, including aftercare and counseling.
  • Reduce the stigma of getting help through education and communication. You can read more about steps we’ve seen work in this blog on Reducing The Stigma Of Mental Health.
  • Educate employees about the health and productivity hazards of substance abuse through company wellness programs.

While all these policies and programs will help, the NCADD has one strong recommendation. “ “Without question, establishment of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is the most effective way to address alcohol and drug problems in the workplace,” says the NCADD. “EAPs deal with all kinds of problems and provide short-term counseling, assessment and referrals for employees with alcohol and drug abuse problems.”

At Espyr, we also understand the power of EAPs. But as a leading behavioral health company we’re continuously innovating to find new solutions to behavioral health issues. For example, we’re leading the way with a suite of coaching programs to encourage employees to ask for help when they need it or when traditional counseling isn’t required. We’ve developed innovative new approaches like Spotlight™, a behavioral health coaching and proprietary data analytics platform. Spotlight is able to proactively identify and aid employees (and their dependents) that may need assistance with drug abuse and other healthcare issues. It can more than pay for itself in reduced absenteeism, increased employee engagement, increased employee retention and a reduction in healthcare costs of up to 20%.

Espyr is offering Spotlight with partners such as Fairbanks Employer Services, one of the oldest and most highly regarded alcohol and drug treatment centers in America. With this new marketing partnership, Fairbanks will offer this technology to their portfolio of client companies under the name Fairbanks Spotlight™.

For more information on how Espyr can help you achieve a drug-free work environment, call Espyr at 866-570-3479 or go to espyr.com.

 

Health and Wellness: Revealing Trends In Benefits

The numbers don’t lie. The inclusion of new, innovative health and wellness offerings and initiatives as part of a company’s benefits package is increasing dramatically. In a survey by WorldatWork, the leading nonprofit professional association in compensation and total rewards, 900 respondents across the country described some of the ways companies in 2017 are taking better care of their employees than they were in 2016. In this article, we’ll take you through the most impactful changes.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) – Up 20%

According to the WorldatWork survey, 80% of the respondents’ companies offered an EAP in 2016. In 2017, that number went up to 96%. This should not come as a surprise. A comprehensive EAP program, implemented correctly, can improve employee retention, reduce absenteeism and help produce a happier, more productive workforce. Increasingly, employers and employees are recognizing the value – even as a recruiting tool. On their 2018 list of ten perks that attract and retain employees, BenefitsPro.com places EAPs just behind Snacks and Coffee, Flexible Work Schedules and Working from Home.

Behavioral Health Plans – Up 17%

Offered by 78% of the surveyed companies in 2016 and 91% in 2017, behavioral health plans and services are quickly becoming the norm. While engagement in these plans has been an issue historically, it’s important to have the resources in place for those who might need them. The other good news? More companies are making efforts to demystify these programs and remove the associated stigma. By making behavioral health part of a company’s culture and involving senior leadership, more and more employees are taking advantage of these services.

Another trend that will help: an increase in coaching vs. counseling. While the best coaches receive training and education comparable to counselors, the idea of coaching is something that is inherently more approachable.

Wellness Incentives – Up 18%

By providing rewards other than wellness itself, incentive programs can be very effective, and have increased in use from 56% in 2016 to 66% in 2017. Incentives could be anything from blue ribbons to free or subsidized health club memberships, often landing somewhere in the middle – cash, gift cards, event tickets and health insurance discounts.Fitness class

When combined with simple, short-term prizes, wellness incentives provide employees with enough motivation to get the wellness ball rolling until they begin to feel the internal benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

Outcomes-Based Wellness Programs – Up 33%

All wellness programs are, of course, outcomes-based in that they hope to achieve better health outcomes for as many employees as possible. Outcomes-based wellness programs, however, are simply incentive-based programs designed to achieve a certain outcome, like not smoking or losing weight.

According to WellSteps, an employee wellness solutions company, an outcomes-based wellness program will increase program participation and effectiveness. A combination of data feedback and healthy activities can encourage desired health behaviors while giving employees many different ways to qualify. If you treat people with respect and don’t force them to participate, WellSteps points out, your employees will love your wellness program and employee morale will get a big boost.

Health Coaching – Up 14%

As mentioned earlier, counseling can still carry a stigma that keeps some people with behavioral health issues from seeking help. Also, people may need advice, direction or just someone to talk to, and don’t have the need for formal counseling. This is where health coaching can help. With more of a positive connotation than counseling, more employees will seek the help they need.

And it’s working. According to the International Coaching Federation, 86% of companies who implement a coaching program feel the ROI was valuable.

Financial Wellness Services – Up 10%

In their 2017 survey on corporate health and well-being, Fidelity Investments® and the National Business Group on Health® revealed 84% of companies now offer financial wellness services, such as access to debt management tools or student loan counseling, an increase from 76% in 2016. As more employers recognize the impact of financial wellness on employee health, a growing percentage of companies are expanding their well-being programs to include employee financial security.$100 bill puzzle

As programs, services and offerings continue to evolve, employers are embracing a broader definition of well-being, one that leads to increased participation and engagement among their workforce – and greater productivity. “Today’s programs take more of a ‘health meets wealth’ approach,” said Adam Stavisky, senior vice president, Fidelity Benefits Consulting. “They reflect a blend of financial, physical and social/emotional programs to provide maximum support for members.”

If you’d like to learn how your company can catch up to the trends in wellness – and improve the happiness and productivity of your workforce – call Espyr at 866-570-3479 or click here.

Work/Life Balance: Is That What Millennials Really Want?

To be a better employer – a better company – it’s important to give your employees everything they need to be better, too. A central concept in that regard is to avoid the cultural pressure of overworking employees, helping to provide a better work/life balance.

The research – and common sense – says that a proper work/life balance will also reap benefits for the company in terms of productivity, longevity and workforce satisfaction. Just look at the results of MetLife’s 16th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study:

  • 81% of respondents say having a work/life balance makes them more productive.
  • 79% say a work/life balance makes them a more engaged colleague.

In addition, a new World Services Group study found that among the 1,500 young professionals surveyed, work/life balance was the biggest priority in their professional lives, beating out wealth and leadership opportunities.

Rocks balancing on top of one another

Photo by Matthew Cabret

Today’s workforce is changing. By 2020, according to the Governance Studies at Brookings report How Millennials Could Upend Wall Street and Corporate America,” more than one third of American adults will be Millennials. And by 2025, they will make up 75% of the workforce.

So the real question for today’s employer looking to do right by his or her employees: How to Millennials define work/life balance?

Balance Has Nothing to Do with It

The MetLife study mentioned above provides some insightful analysis. A proper separation between work and life – the paradigm of the previous generation – has been dying for years, they say. Today’s employees, primarily Millennials, no longer seek a balance of work and life but, rather, an integration. They want complete fluidity at work, at home and in every aspect of their lives.

“Think of your life as a symphony.”

The World Services Group study (also mentioned above) reveals that today’s employees see their lives as a whole, of which their career is one valuable part. They like to work hard and be productive, as long as doing so doesn’t interfere with their ability to live a full life. Respondents consistently emphasized the high priority that Millennials place on achieving the flexibility to control meaningful priorities between their work and professional lives.

Finally, Steven Cohen, a partner at 21Mill.com, a platform that helps Millennials perform better at work, uses this analogy in talking to his Millennial clients:

“Stop thinking that your life needs to be balanced. Balance implies things need to be equal in order to be successful. Think of your life as a symphony, instead. A great symphony is played with many different types of instruments, each played at different levels of intensity at different times during the performance. Your commitments, just like instruments in a symphony, need to be adjusted to whatever is most important at any point in time. The goal is not to have work/life balance. It’s to have work/life harmony.”

A Closer Look at Their Hyper-Connected World

Ryan Jenkins is a speaker on Millennials and Generation Z, and another partner at 21Mill.com. In his article in Inc.com, he says that growing up in a hyper-connected world, where a smart device has never been outside of arm’s reach, has forced Millennials to rethink and redefine work/life balance in very specific ways:

  • The Long Term

Millennials aren’t driven by the thought of working hard for the next 40 years and then retiring. Rather, they want to build a life and career that can withstand the continuous reinventions and pivots that the 21st century will bring, whether they retire early or not at all.

  • Engagement

Millennials view work/life balance as being fully engaged with the task or activity at hand. Work/life balance isn’t about physical time and place; it’s a state of mind (even if they occasionally need help from leaders to turn off the distractions to ensure they can be fully present).

  • Freedom

Millennials want work/life balance to be free and flexible so they can prioritize whatever is most important that day. To them, a more fluid approach ensures less stress.

  • Making It Personal

Millennials want a healthy mix of achieving professional goals and time to pursue personal goals. Again, this is about freedom and flexibility. This could be staying an extra day on a business trip to explore the area or completing work early so they can attend a child’s school function later that day.

What Can Employers Do to Help?

Taking care of employees – both professionally and personally – is at the heart of every Employee Assistance Program (EAP). A customized, comprehensive EAP, like the ones offered by Espyr, can provide all the assistance your employees need – Millennials or not – to achieve their version of a work/life balance.

For example, a good comprehensive EAP will make available a host of work/life seminars on topics such as stress management, team building, coping with change, working with difficult people and maintaining a positive attitude.  A good EAP will also offer a wide variety of other services that allow work/life integration to be possible, including:

  • Legal and Financial Consultation
  • Childcare Information and Referrals
  • Eldercare Services
  • Academic Resources
  • Special Needs Services and Referrals
  • Concierge/Convenience Services

If you’d like to learn more about helping your employees live a more balanced, harmonious life – and improve their work productivity in the process – call Espyr at 866-570-3479 or go to espyr.com.

 

 

 

Five Steps Businesses Need To Be Taking Now To Address The Opioid Crisis

According to the CDC, 115 people die in the US everyday of opioid overdoses. That’s more than from car accidents, gun violence, and most forms of cancers. Opiate related overdoses are now the leading cause of death in Americans under the age of 50.

Though it seems we’re confronted with news about the opioid crisis wherever we turn, the situation isn’t getting any better. In the past year, ER visits for opioid overdose nationally rose nearly 30%.   How does this mounting crisis impact your business and what should you be doing about it?

“…the combination of lower productivity, higher healthcare and substance abuse treatment costs, missed work and other opioid related issues add up to $78.5B….”

The first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one, and here businesses may be missing the boat. In a National Safety Council survey, 39% of employers viewed prescription drug use as a threat to safety and just 24% said it is a problem, even though seven in 10 companies reported issues ranging from absenteeism to overdose. In fact, the combination of lower productivity, higher healthcare and substance abuse treatment costs, missed work and other opioid related issues add up to $78.5B according to the National Center For Injury Prevention and Control.

The situation has gotten so bad for businesses that the Federal Reserve found that employers were finding it difficult to fill open positions, partially due to a skills gap but also because many applicants couldn’t pass a drug test.

There are steps you should be taking at your business to address this crisis. Nick Otto’s article, Opioid Treatment Costing Employers Big identifies three responsibilities that businesses have according to Michael Thompson, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions

  1. Educate employees about opioid misuse – Currently, only 24% of companies provide training and education to employees in opioid use according to a recent National Safety Council survey. When it comes to educating employees, Thompson says issues to consider include proper storage and disposal of prescription medications, the dangers associated with sharing opioid medication with others, the need to ask questions of their providers if prescribed opioids as well as clarifying a clear path for how employees or their families can seek help and treatment if they are concerned about addiction or dependency.
  2. Employers need to review their programs and policies to better align with the collective opioid agenda. “Programs and policies are being relooked at to ensure appropriate coverage and support, while better defining expectations for both supervisors and employees,” Thompson says. “Employers should set expectations for EAPs, health plans and prescription drug managers to play a more systematic role to identify potential opioid misuse and take actions to help address systemic issues and support employees and their families who have opioid issues.”
  3. Engage with your health plans and PBMs to ensure they do their part. Employers are demanding and now getting more data from their health plan or data warehouse vendor and diving deeper to understand the impact of drugs on their population. Because of this, employers and PBMs are beginning to make progress to reduce the risk of overdose. They’re reducing barriers to medication assisted treatment and limiting the opioid dosage prescribed to individuals. A recent benchmarking survey last year from the Midwest Business Group on Health found most employers indicating that they are changing their pharmacy benefit design by putting restrictions on opioid prescriptions, using prior authorization and quantity limits (as low as a 5-day supply) and more advanced utilization management rules, notes Cheryl Larson, president and CEO of MBGH.
  4. Another step gaining proponents is the use of a segmented and data analytics approach to opioid abuse. Products such as Espyr’s Spotlight™ use data analytics to provide insights that enable managers to identify potential problems proactively. For example, Spotlight could identify the co-existence of conditions closely associated with opioid abuse and act as an early warning system for a potential problem.

Last, your EAP should be an active partner to you in your efforts. David Pawlowski in his recent article, Opioid-use disorders: The role of the employee assistance program points out the vital role that EAPs can play if their programs are built and positioned correctly.

1) Position the EAP as the entry-point for all mental health and substance abuse services. Employees with an opioid-abuse problem require a significant level of advocacy and support. Consider putting the phone number for the EAP on the company insurance card, with language that steers all employees seeking help for a mental health or substance abuse problem to the EAP first. Similarly, ensure that customer service representatives, benefits specialists and any other internal or external health plan experts or advocates are trained to refer employees to the EAP for assistance. The EAP should spearhead and deliver this external training initiative.

2) Ensure all calls into the program are answered live 24/7/365 by a licensed, experienced clinician. When an employee with an opioid-abuse problem calls the EAP, the first person he or she speaks with must be an expert. With opioid abuse, problems escalate quickly and crises are common. In most cases, the window of opportunity when an opioid user is receptive to help is short. An experienced clinician can reinforce the positive steps an employee is taking and use evidence-based strategies to enhance motivation to change and increase the likelihood that the employee will follow through with treatment.

3) Confirm that the EAP conducts a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse assessment for every participant. Stigma is real, and employees often minimize their problems. A comprehensive clinical assessment that includes evidence-based screening tools will ensure that no underlying issues are missed. Then, based on the assessment, the EAP clinician can work collaboratively with the employee to develop the most clinically appropriate care path – and provide guidance to the highest-quality and most cost-effective, in-network treatment options. By ensuring employees always receive referrals to the ‘right’ providers and facilities the EAP can have significant and measurable impact on healthcare costs.

4) Ensure that your EAP has a clinical orientation and can provide a warm hand-off to your medical plan. Opioid abuse or addiction will likely require longer-term and more highly structured treatment plans than typical EAP problem resolution. That means using resources within the employee’s medical plan. A variety of treatment options are available to battle opioid abuse, including detoxification, inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient behavioral health counseling and medication assisted treatment. Often, the most effective solution is a combination of multiple treatment types. By ensuring a secure, warm hand-off from the EAP, the employee’s case continues to be handled appropriately from start to finish. When addressing opioid addiction, the importance of ongoing case management at every stage of the treatment process cannot be overstated.

Your EAP can also be an organizational resource to assist employers who wish to take a more proactive role in addressing issues related to employee opioid use and abuse. The following are just a few of the many ways that an EAP can support the organization:

  • HR/management consultation
  • Drug-free workplace policy development
  • Employee and supervisor education and training (including ‘reasonable suspicion’ training)
  • Formal management referral services
  • Substance abuse professional services (for employees whose job duties fall under federal Department of Transportation regulations)

The opioid problem is large and not showing signs of receding. Don’t assume your business or your employees are immune. They’re not. You may not be able to fix the problem, but taking the steps noted here will help you manage it and lessen it’s impact on your business.

To learn more about Spotlight or Espyr’s innovative EAP call 866-570-3479 or click here.

The Benefit That Retains Talent and Cuts Cost?

You’re In For A Surprise. It’s always a challenge to attract and retain good employees. But in times of high employment – like today – the challenge is even greater. Of course, in any economy, you’re still limited in terms of benefits; when it comes to salaries, health insurance, 401(k) matching and the like, there’s only so much money in the bucket.

Fortunately, there’s one often-overlooked benefit that can provide a true retention and recruiting advantage over your competition – a comprehensive EAP (Employee Assistance Program). That’s right. A comprehensive EAP, implemented correctly, can yield surprising benefits, including decreased healthcare costs, reduced absenteeism and a happier, more productive workforce. Increasingly, employers and employees are recognizing the value; on their 2018 list of ten perks that attract and retain employees, BenefitsPro.com places EAPs just behind Snacks and Coffee, Flexible Work Schedules and Working from Home.

The Behavioral Health Drain

Everyone understands how physical illness in the workforce can lead to employee and employer hardships, financial and otherwise. In much the same way, behavioral health issues can be a huge drain on productivity, as well as overall healthcare costs. Of the 1,500-plus workers interviewed by the American Psychological Association (APA) for the 2016 Work and Well-Being Survey, one in three reported being chronically stressed on the job, and less than half of the respondents felt their company supported employee well-being.

Not All EAPs Are Alike

Any EAP can address behavioral issues, but a comprehensive plan can do more, and do it better. Some leading edge EAPs, for example, are using data analytics to proactively address behavioral health issues, which leads to increased employee engagement and reduced healthcare costs. Addressing the issues, though, is more than a trend; it’s a necessity. “Employers who understand the link between employee well-being and organizational performance,” says David Ballard, PsyD, MBA and head of the APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence, “are best positioned for success.”

But beware of the “free” EAP. While the goal of any EAP plan is to improve employee wellness by helping them deal with personal and work problems, not all plans are alike. Most of the free add-on plans offered by health insurance companies and brokers, in fact, contract with third-party providers with limited offerings and a reduced level of service. Employee care is not a priority; checking off the EAP box is. In addition, these plans are never truly free; employers are paying premiums as part of their overall package.

A comprehensive EAP plan offered by a specialty vendor is a very different animal. These providers are true partners in the behavioral health of your employees. They’ll help you with program marketing and employee awareness. They’ll help you address the stigma often associated with behavioral health issues. They’ll help you make the program work better. Plus, they have the experience and knowledge to help employees and their family members in a professional, clinically-appropriate manner.

The list of services offered by a comprehensive EAP is surprisingly extensive. And for employers watching their bottom line, these plans more than pay for themselves in increased employee productivity, improved retention, reduced absenteeism and reduced healthcare costs.

Features of a Comprehensive EAP

Just like there are comprehensive, best-in-class insurance plans, there are comprehensive, best-in-class EAPs. Make sure your EAP provider offers a full breadth of counseling, coaching, work/life balance and organizational support services, including:

  • Counseling and referral services by licensed counselors
  • Provider/employee matching and access to services in-person, telephonically, by video or via chat
  • Financial and legal consultations
  • Eldercare and childcare consultation, resources and referrals
  • Unlimited management consultation around formal referrals or other workplace issues
  • Identity theft recovery
  • Leadership coaching
  • Critical incident response services and reporting
  • Proactive awareness initiatives
  • Options like 24/7 HIPAA-compliant texting support, personal coaching, Video call doctor visits and more

Create Better Employees

Helping people live better, happier lives is only one of the benefits of providing a comprehensive EAP plan (although, admittedly, a big benefit). A decrease in problems and worries leads to an increase in productivity.

But there’s a bonus benefit to providing such a plan, whether employees find they need these services or not. When people feel valued, appreciated and cared for, they naturally become more empowered and motivated to do their best work. If you want a loyal and happy workforce, in other words, create a workplace that enables them to be their best.

Learn More

Want to be sure that you have the right EAP for your company?  Click here or call Espyr at 866-570-3479.

 

Five Steps to A More Effective EAP

You made a smart decision. You researched comprehensive EAP (Employee Assistance Program) plans and now you’re interviewing providers in order to offer your employees a host of customized behavioral health services as a valuable new component of your benefits package. Of course, your motives are not entirely selfless. You understand that a customized EAP plan from a specialty provider can decrease absenteeism, increase productivity and lead to a happier, more loyal workforce.

Now that you’re ready to offer your employees all these wonderful, helpful tools and services, how do you make sure your employees take advantage of them? We offer five suggestions:

Build Awareness and Education

If you need to communicate a small process change, a mass company email might be sufficient. But to increase awareness of a major new benefit – or to make it part of your employee onboarding process – something more thorough and intimate is required. Furthermore, most of your employees know very little about an EAP or all it has to offer, so education is as important as awareness. Consider the following:

  • Team or department meetings
  • Company lunch and learns
  • Develop easy-to-understand collateral
  • Develop an ongoing internal marketing program
  • Designate a subject matter expert to answer questions (typically a member of your HR team)

It’s important to keep in mind that increasing awareness requires more than a one-time attempt. You need to be sure that you’re reaching employees with the right message and with enough frequency that they’ve internalized it and remember it. Think of it like an ad on TV. If you’ve only seen the ad once you’re not likely to remember it. It’s only after seeing the ad several times that you remember the message.

Of course, if your EAP provider is a good partner, you won’t have to go it alone. They should be providing marketing materials, contributing ideas and working with you hand-in-hand to help you develop the right communication plan.

Make It Easy 

A comprehensive EAP plan has dozens of benefits and offerings, including multiple methods of reaching out for help. This could cause first-time users to be too confused, overwhelmed or apprehensive to dive in. That, of course, defeats the purpose of any EAP – employees must be able to take advantage of the services they need without needless barriers.

Make sure you find an EAP provider that can customize your plan to your employees and company, so you’re not offering nonessential or extra services. They should also help ensure the products and services are presented clearly and accessed easily. Don’t complicate things; if an employee needs help, it should be as simple as texting, making a phone call or sending an email.

Address Privacy Concerns

Make sure employees know that their information is secure and won’t be shared. Because EAPs can deal with issues involving mental or behavioral health, personal finances and/or legal issues, employers must be aware of confidentiality and legal concerns surrounding those services and communicate how each employee’s interaction with the EAP will remain completely private.

In fact, Federal law requires confidentiality of alcohol and drug abuse records, for example, and there are penalties for unlawful or unauthorized release of information. These same regulations also prohibit the implicit or negative disclosure of information to anyone in the company besides the HR department. EAPs – or the companies that offer them – are simply not allowed to release any information without signed consent, regardless of the nature of the problem.

According to The Society for Human Resource Management, employees are more likely to use your EAP services if they understand this use will be strictly confidential. Additionally, if they fear using the EAP for certain services will have a negative impact on their careers, no one will participate.

Our advice: Be strict about confidentiality and communicate that policy clearly to your employees.

Address Behavioral Health Stigma

Another reason some employees may not take advantage of all the services in your EAP is the stigma of mental or behavioral health issues. The Mayo Clinic’s website calls stigma “a negative judgment based on a personal trait; in this case, having a mental health condition.” This stigma and accompanying discrimination are linked to outdated beliefs that mental illnesses don’t have the same biological foundation as physical issues, plus repeated media depictions of people with mental illness as being dangerous and unstable.

In an article from Psychology Today, Graham C.L. Davey Ph.D. points out the widespread nature of these depictions. “People tend to hold these negative beliefs about mental health problems regardless of their age, regardless of what knowledge they have of mental health problems and regardless of whether they know someone who has a mental health problem.”

Removing the stigma is no simple task. It would require the reversal of centuries of ignorant and prejudicial thought and actions. A cultural change is needed. Employers can’t drive this type of change alone, but they should have an interest in playing an important role in driving change.

Employers can start by providing a forum for open discussion. One idea is to bring in a behavioral health professional to talk about the facts, dispel misconceptions and to discuss the bravery and benefits of seeking help. The primary goal of such an event is to give each employee the confidence to get help when they need it without fear of professional or personal repercussions. Another idea is to be sure when messaging employees about physical health or well-being that you include emotional/psychological health messages, as well.

Tell the Whole Story

As long as you have a comprehensive plan, you need to make sure you tell your employees the whole story. Don’t overly focus on just the serious behavioral health issues like substance abuse; communicate the full breadth of services your EAP provides, which may include:

  • Financial consultations
  • Legal consultations
  • Eldercare and/or childcare referrals
  • Identity theft recovery
  • Professional development
  • And many more

Learn More

Want to know if you have the right EAP for your company or learn more about increasing employee engagement in your EAP? Click here and we’ll be happy to help or call Espyr at 866-570-3479.

 

A Surprisingly Effective Solution for Stronger EAP Engagement

One of the most common criticisms of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) is the low level of employee engagement. The National Business Group on Health estimates that only 5% of employees use their employer’s EAP annually. This estimate is consistent with other sources, which quote utilization in the single digits. Of course, this low engagement estimate includes employers who have signed up for “free” EAPs bundled in a disability insurance plan. These employers may only be interested in an EAP in order to check a box, so they’re not aggressively promoting their programs. In fact, providers of these “free” EAPs are banking on low utilization in order for their economic models to work.

There are many ways to increase EAP employee engagement, and a good EAP provider should be very willing to assist you with your efforts. Examples of some important tactics include:

Building better awareness – Awareness of EAP plans and the breadth of services offered tends to be very low in many companies. More and better communication of the EAP and the services offered is one of the highest impact steps an employer can take.

Customizing the EAP – Comprehensive EAP providers should work with you to customize the services they offer, as well as how those services are delivered, to meet the unique needs of your company and your employees.

Senior leadership engagement – When employees see their leaders are “walking the walk” by engaging with their EAP, it adds credibility and legitimacy.

Make it part of the company culture – Progressive employers recognize the importance of behavioral health, yet most employer wellness programs only focus on physical health. Your EAP and behavioral health services should be integrated across benefit programs.

Overcome the stigma – Sadly, many employees who would most benefit from the services of an EAP refrain from doing so because of the stigma often associated with mental health and EAPs. Making it part of the culture and having senior leadership set the example will help break down the stigma and increase engagement.

Emphasize Coaching to Help Overcome the Stigma

Another potentially more powerful way to overcome the stigma associated with EAPs is to get employees to think of their EAP in a different light. Yes, EAPs are designed to address critical behavioral health conditions like substance abuse or depression. But today’s EAPs offer so much more. Often, employees need advice, direction or just someone to talk to; they don’t need formal counseling. What they need is a coach.

Progressive EAPs offer a broad array of coaching services. And, while EAPs may have a negative connotation to some, coaching is generally always viewed positively. That means more of your employees will seek the help they need.

Don’t be confused and think that coaches are the JV team. Good coaching programs from comprehensive EAP providers will be selective about their coaches, only hiring those that are mental health professionals with master’s degrees.

Types of Coaching Programs

Coaching programs can effectively address the most common issues facing your employees every day – relationship issues, financial concerns, difficulty transitioning into a new position or new location, and leadership issues. Any one of these issues can effect job productivity, engagement levels and job performance. Examples of the types of coaching programs available include:

  • Personal Coaching – Helps employees through issues or events that are impacting their lives in some way. These could be relationship issues that are personal or work-related.
  • Health Coaching – Helps employees through health issues such as having trouble sticking to a diet, handling stress or quitting smoking.
  • Financial Coaching – As earnings or saving issues leaves more employees stressed and looking for help, the need for financial coaching becomes increasingly relevant. Financial coaching can help them with personal money management and related financial issues.
  • Leadership Coaching – Helps managers and supervisors recognize and address the behavioral health issues that are creating barriers to advancement or greater leadership success. Leadership coaches in a comprehensive EAP program will help managers identify those issues and guide them in developing and sticking to an improvement plan.

If you’d like to know more about how coaching programs can help your company, call Espyr at 866-570-3479 or go click here.