Employee Assistance Programs

Enriching employee well-being with technology enablers

Cloud, mobility and other tools help employers cope with the new demands on employee assistance programs.

COVID-19 has brought care giving to the forefront. Employers are today tasked with caring for the emotional health and well-being of their employees by proactively helping them resolve personal issues outside of the workplace to make for a productive workforce.

As a result, work-life benefits companies are coping with a sudden need to build new capacity on their technology platforms to support their employee assistance programs (EAP), to meet both the surge in demand for services and the range of service requests. One provider of work-life benefits saw an 800% increase in demand for backup care services. That spike in its EAP utilization rates was the equivalent of solving for two months of volume in less than one week.

With benefits like adult and childcare solutions taking center stage, specialist technology firms are partnering with customer organizations to provide immediate and seamless relief to employee requests. Those partnerships are important also because employers must modernize their employee assistance programs in the broader context of keeping employees safe, happy and productive, especially during the pandemic.

Integrating technology with EAP

Technology is helping companies manage the new EAP demands in a variety of ways. For instance, mobile applications allow employees to log in and access various services. Technology specialists are partnering with customer organizations to augment their platforms and services. Migrating applications to the cloud allow employees quick and easy access to services, and also keep them informed of enhancements or other changes to the programs.

In addition to cloud platforms, companies are also adopting micro services architecture to modernize applications, allowing APIs for easier integration with third-party applications, and ensuring real-time data provision. All that helps accelerate the underlying IT infrastructure, providing faster response times and delivery of services.

For example, a prominent work-life benefits provider recently invested in significant technology upgrades to seamlessly provide relief to every employee. Three critical components were at the heart of this capability:

A virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to provide centralized computing power for its workforce, enabling complete workplace flexibility.
Enterprise-level collaboration and videoconferencing capability for stable and reliable internal and external communication.
Secure Remote Connectivity, allowing the workforce to work remotely without having local access to the corporate network. This included providing specialists with access to its suite of contact center applications, enabling them to run and manage the entire call center remotely.

The new EAP environment

The spike in EAP utilization rates is marked by unique needs. Extended stay-at-home, remote working and hybrid return-to-work conditions have seen more and more people coming in with anxiety and depression, requiring medical consults. Demand for elderly care services has also increased, especially for nanny services and care-giver services. These two lines of services have seen a huge demand spike.

More than ever before, companies recognize that revitalizing benefits and rewards is critical to increase employee retention and productivity. In addressing the new pressures on their EAP offerings, they use a mix of B2B (business-to-business) B2C (business-to-consumer) services. For instance, in the B2C realm, technology platforms enable employees to access employer sponsored work-life benefits such as shopping discounts and coupons they may provide through partnerships with retailers. They also enable employees to register for services related to employee care and work-life balances, such as a nanny service at home, or elder care with a nurse.

Mental and behavioral health and anxiety issues have been on the rise with COVID. Here, EAP features include providing employees phone access to counselors or therapists. Demands in senior-care management, backup care assistance services for children, adults, and pets, and work-life balance services have been the fundamental asks of employee assistance programs this pandemic. Effective employee assistance programs must therefore reinvigorate themselves by embracing technology advancements to achieve faster outcomes and increase engagement to make employees  healthier and happier.

Key takeaways
  • EAPs are witnessing a surge in demand and in the types of services in the wake of the pandemic.
  • Mobility, cloud platforms and centralized computing power help companies cope with the new demands on the EAPs.
  • Employers could use a mix of B2B and B2C programs to provide employees access to a range of services, including shopping discounts and coupons.

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