With the present COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations have moved to teleworking environments for the health and safety of their employees. This instant changeover coupled with widespread uncertainty and strict government guidelines affecting daily life has created a space where new or existing mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, are amplified for many employees. As a result, a growing number of Americans – as many as 41%, according to the CDC – are experiencing mental or behavioral health challenges as they adjust to their new remote working arrangements. With nearly 80% of CEOs reporting that telework is here to stay, employers need to invest in the wellbeing of their remote workforce.
What Employers Can Do
Considering the pressing nature of mental health during a global health crisis, employers are focusing efforts on sourcing and integrating supportive services that best assist employees in managing their day-to-day stressors. One popular option is the utilization of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). These benefits provide intermediary support between employers and employees, to support employee’s work performance and ability to manage stress and illness.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are additional benefits oftentimes provided through group insurance plans, but also as standalone programs, that offer employees no-cost access to a range of support and referral services. These options are generally administered in tandem with specialty benefits firms that provide extensive direct or referral services, including:
Wellness Support | Experts assist employees with mental, behavioral, or physical issues through counseling services. This offering can extend beyond the individual employee to their immediate family members (e.g., spouse, children, parents) including items such as family and adolescent treatment referrals or direct therapy services. This EAP benefit can be particularly helpful for employees who are working from home with children or other family members that require constant care. Locating open local daycares, nursing, or home health services are just a few items that can provide some relief of these responsibilities.
Financial Consultations | Professionals guide employees with managing their budgets and growing their savings through investment strategies, retirement planning and referrals to qualified local financial advisors. The US Census’ Household Pulse Survey, conducted from May – July 2020, indicated an increase of anxiety and depression in many American respondents due to layoffs, reduction in work and lower income circumstances, subsequently leading to financial hardship. Utilizing an EAP for assistance in this area can significantly reduce the associated pressure and deterioration of employee motivation and well-being during this unprecedented time.
Legal Services | Employees can receive little- to no-cost legal support including will creation, estate planning, document review, consultations, and discounts on advisor fees. During a time where some individuals may experience housing changes, from eviction to relocation, EAPs can help with the burden of deciphering leasing documents or navigating real estate sales or mortgage documents.
Identity Theft | Provides support to employees and their immediate family members who are victims of identity theft. EAP services can connect employees with specialists who can provide guidance on preventative steps employees can take to secure their private information. In the event of theft, trained specialists can assist employees through the recuperation process including disputes with credit agencies or finding resources to cover identity theft expenses.
Work Issues | Employees suffering with job-related stress can seek assistance through an EAP program which can provide intermediary and consultative support between the employee and their employers.
Other Personal Matters | EAPs can offer employees the resources to manage their overall health including nutrition and fitness management, in addition to assistance with items such as education, pet care coordination and even recourse for substance abuse issues.
EAPs offer access to various resources, not limited to those mentioned above, that can provide substantial assistance to employees in effectively managing their overall well-being through supportive individual, family, or job-related services to best foster work-life balance.
Utilizing an EAP benefit is an integral component of a comprehensive benefits package. With the recent conclusion of September’s Suicide Prevention Month followed by World Mental Health Day on October 10, there is no better time to evaluate additional resources to support employees through this turbulent time.