Employee Assistance Programs: What Are the Gaps?

Employee Assistance Programs: What Are the Gaps?

Are you struggling with shifting workforce mental health needs and finding your EAP is no longer enough? Your employees are having difficulty accessing, aren’t aware of, or there’s simply too much stigma to connect with an EAP? If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. It’s a challenge that all too many organizations are facing today, exacerbated by the reality that workforce mental health needs have never been greater.

Employee assistance programs have been the de facto mental health solution for workplaces since the 1970s. Described as a work-based program that identifies and assists employees in solving personal problems that may negatively affect their performance at work, EAPs typically provide short-term counseling services for a range of specific issues. While EAPs may remain useful for handling mental health crisis care, needs have evolved beyond this when we factor in the conditions of the workforce today.

What are the challenges with an EAP-based mental health strategy?

  1. Demand for mental health far outweighs supply

Imagine living in a neighborhood with only one grocery store, but the store only opens once every six weeks and stocks limited items. Frustrating, right? This is eerily similar to the current state of EAPs in mental health care. An astonishing 160 million Americans currently live in areas with mental health shortages, a gap that requires over 8,000 additional professionals to bridge. Even more concerning? Fewer than half of individuals with mental health needs can access timely care. The pandemic highlighted these growing needs, and many were left waiting, with an average wait time of about six weeks.

  1. Limited use and awareness

According to a Gallup survey, a mere 2-3% of employees use their EAPs, and that’s for all services, not just mental health. Not only this, but nearly half of employees don’t even know if their organization has an EAP. Contrast this with almost 70% of employees saying their daily work has been impacted by mental health struggles, we’ve clearly got something that doesn’t quite line up.

  1. Viewed as crisis-centric

Let’s face it: there’s a looming perception that EAPs are only for those teetering on the edge of crisis, making many employees hesitant to even consider them as a tool to prevent or manage burnout. Consider that stigma is still rampant, and very few employees would self-identify as being in crisis, and it’s easy to understand why these resources are under-leveraged.

  1. Limited data and reporting

And finally, EAPs are quite limited when it comes to data and reporting. Disjointed systems and a lack of actionable insights leave employers in the dark, unable to drive real change.

All of this has gotten us to where we are today and is why employers are starting to look beyond EAPs for mental health support. So, what critical gaps must leaders recognize and address?

The current workforce reality

Let’s paint a picture of the modern work scene, shall we?

The productivity crunch for employees today

Gone are the days of the 9-to-5. Today’s employees often find themselves burning the candle at both ends, pushing harder and giving more, sometimes for diminishing returns. With the looming shadow of AI, many work in a cloud of anxiety, fearful of machine-led redundancy. Add to that the increasing demand for output and innovation, and you’ll understand why employees can’t afford to lose half a working day to a 3-hour workshop. Time, in today’s age, isn’t just gold; it’s diamond, platinum, and every precious metal combined.

Mental health and mental illness are not the same thing

Now, let’s debunk a myth: mental health and mental illness? Not interchangeable. Sure, 1-in-5 people will experience a mental illness, and that statistic has traditionally shaped our approach to workplace support through EAPs. The flawed logic? “They’re broken; let’s fix them.” Yet, the truth paints a broader canvas. A staggering 84% of employees grappled with mental health challenges in the past year, pointing to a widespread need that goes beyond clinical diagnosis. The message? It’s time to reevaluate, redesign, and reemphasize the importance of proactive mental health strategies in the workplace.

The solution? Giving employees the tools to practice before illness

What do we know? We know that access to care is a problem, stigma is an even bigger problem, and we are living in a consumer generation today that is highly personalized to our tastes, digital-centric, and provides instant gratification. We also know that an EAP is setup to handle the ~5% of the workforce that are in need of crisis support. But what about the other 95%? How do we support people going through their daily grind of work and home life that just need tools to be the best versions of themselves and prevents them from falling into a mental rut?

This is modern mental health and it will forever be a problem if the solution is connecting them with a counselor through an EAP, which just doesn’t match up with the employee’s reality.

Access to 24/7 and evidence-based digital tools

In the age of streaming services and instant messaging, we’re wired to want everything yesterday. Mental health needs? They’re no exception. As we navigate the swift currents of an on-demand generation, we have to keep up. Fortunately, with the power of technology, employees now have access to evidence-based mental health tools – the very same tools that psychologists and psychiatrists swear by – around the clock. Imagine, professional-grade mental health support at the tap of a button, 24/7.

Micro-practices rooted in the employee experience

Consider this: What if improving mental wellbeing was as quick and easy as checking your social media notifications? Enter micro-practices. These are bite-sized, science-backed exercises that pack a punch in under 2 minutes. Available on any device, they’re tailored to mirror the way we consume media today. Whether you’re on a lunch break, in between meetings, or unwinding at home, these practices seamlessly integrate into any setting. After all, practice doesn’t just make perfect, it makes possible. It’s all about learning by doing, creating transformative change one step at a time.

Data meets care

Numbers don’t lie, but they can heal. By giving employees a transparent view of their mental health journey, they’re not just empowered; they’re engaged. And for employers? The data offers invaluable insights, paving the way for company-wide, behavioral science-backed campaigns.

Building community around mental health in your organization

Community is the cornerstone of holistic wellbeing. Harnessing the insights from data, employers can spotlight critical mental health themes, fostering a culture of wellbeing across the board. And the learning doesn’t stop at the individual. With personalized paths, every team member grows, not just as an employee, but as a person. Leaders, armed with the right tools, can guide their teams, fostering genuine, sensitive conversations with confidence. And because mental health knows no bounds, families get access too, ensuring wellbeing truly becomes a shared journey.

Complete your mental health support ecosystem with headversity.

The future of workplace mental health is here, and it’s proactive, personalized, and powered by practice. With headversity, you’re not just adding another tool to your roster, you’re completing a comprehensive support system. Dive into an era where practice is the medicine, and every employee is empowered. Ready to lead the change? Discover how headversity can help