We know that talking to your employees about mental health isn’t the easiest conversation. It can be hard to know where to start, how to say it, or even what the best medium for the conversation should be. However, if your company offers Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) for mental health support, this conversation has never been more important.
EAP can provide incredible returns for employees seeking help, yet in recent years, surveys have shown utilization of EAP to be a dismally low 7% of employees. So what’s stopping employees from taking advantage of this benefit, and how can you help them?
Barriers to EAP Use
Stigma: Why is crisis counseling after traumatic events relatively popular when compared with counseling for financial issues, relationship problems, or other common causes of stress? Some might feel awkward asking for help, others might feel there’s a bias against people who need “therapy.” Some simply find their own issues too embarrassing to ask for help. Your employees can benefit from EAP for any number of modern-life problems, but they might be afraid of being labeled a problem.
Lack of Awareness: It’s possible your employees just don’t know EAP is there for them, or that they don’t know what the program can offer them. Sure, you handed out those brochures back at last year’s Open Enrollment, or at their New Hire Orientation, but chances are, that information isn’t front and center in your employee’s brain… or even the location of that information somewhere in their desk or house. If EAP isn’t part of your company culture, it’s possible that it is simply forgotten.
Wellness Apps: The consumer app market is flooded with mindfulness, meditation, and self-help apps. There’s nothing more simple than opening up the app store and looking for an app that will cure what’s ailing you, but the AI of an app can’t stand in for a person-to-person counseling conversation.
Ways to Boost EAP Use
Make it personal: Personal stories can make believers out of skeptics. In fact, science shows us that narratives are literally brain-changers. Telling employees facts at their orientation about the availability of EAP will certainly inform them that help is out there. But sharing a success story from someone at your company, even made anonymous, is what will engage your employees and help them think critically about what EAP can do for them.
Communicate year-round: Do you have a strong communication strategy for benefits education? This is more than sending out Open Enrollment information. Regular HR communication, sent through channels like email or virtual bulletin boards, can be utilized to share information about EAP and other benefits. Adjust your strategy from month-to-month to reach people no matter how they retain information: from tiny tidbits of easily-digested information to full-length examples and explanations of how EAP can work for them.
Include management: Bring your management teams into the EAP awareness fold, as they can directly impact their employees on a daily basis. Encourage leadership to use EAP and share their stories with their teams, to carry the EAP number and offer it to employees who are struggling, and to generally carry the banner for communication in between your outreach efforts.
Topics to cover: Employees need to understand that EAP is confidential, that EAP does not require any permissions to access, and that EAP offers a broad menu of services. You can address confidentiality by showcasing the privacy laws protecting your employees directly in your communications. You can respond to questions about permission and cost by highlighting the free offerings, and making it clear that EAP is separate from their healthcare plans. Showcase available offerings to show just how much is available through EAP.
Streamlining Benefits & Communications
Does putting together an effective EAP marketing campaign look challenging? You could benefit from streamlining all of your benefits and communications into one place. WBD offers a number of ways to make benefits and EAP utilization easy and intuitive for your employees, plus communications packages which take the guesswork out of building an outreach program.