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January 16, 2024 | Blog

Have We Regressed With Mental Health After The Covid Push?

By Zach Schmit, PN1-NC, NASM-CPT

A lady giving presentation in a meeting

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic marked a significant turning point in how mental health was perceived and prioritized in the workplace. No longer a peripheral topic, mental well-being took center stage, underscoring its critical role in employee productivity and overall corporate health. 

HR Professionals, like they always do, rose to the occasion putting the needs of their team members ahead of their own in many cases. This was a pivotal moment in showcasing the ROI and value of an effective and robust Employee Assistance Program.

Have we regressed? Was it like the “Fish Philosophy” Pike Place Market training of the early 2000’s and simply a fad? We certainly hope that is not the case, however Human Resources are sometimes at the mercy of whatever article their C-Suite read last week, and are left to chase fad’s that do not bring a tangible benefit to the company. 

This article delves into the transformative journey of EAPs, especially focusing on the comprehensive approach embodied by Covenant Workplace Solutions’ Lifestyle EAP, which goes well beyond just checking boxes, but raises the bar for genuine care and support.

The Evolution of Employee Assistance Programs

Employee Assistance Programs have evolved significantly from their initial inception. Originally designed to address acute personal crises, these programs have now expanded to cover a wide range of issues impacting employee well-being and productivity. The pandemic further accelerated this evolution, as employers recognized the multifaceted challenges their employees faced – from anxiety and depression to burnout and work-life balance issues. 

This period highlighted a crucial difference: while some companies treated EAPs as a mere formality, something to just throw in with other benefits, others redefined their EAP to deliver comprehensive, multifaceted support. 

It is not just about the breadth of services offered, but about a fundamental approach to employee wellness – seeing it as an integral part of the organizational fabric rather than a box to be checked. That is why the Lifestyle EAP was created. 

Don’t Allow Urgent To Trump Important When It Comes To Mental Wellness

The relevance of EAPs has never been more pronounced. As businesses navigate the post-pandemic landscape, they are confronted with a workforce facing diverse and complex mental health challenges. This is not going away until the problem is properly addressed.  

A study by the American Psychological Association in 2021 revealed that nearly 60% of employees experienced negative impacts on their work due to stress and anxiety. Another report highlighted how mental health issues could lead to a significant drop in productivity, with employees losing an average of 27 workdays per year due to mental health-related absenteeism and presenteeism. 

We can all do better when it comes to mental wellness. During the pandemic, the conversational topic was mental wellness in the workplace. However, like most things in HR’s world, the urgent trumped the important. Staffing, remote work vs. return-to-office, and quarterly numbers are a few of the many things that come to mind. 

The questions you need to ask yourself and your company are:

Do you have the RIGHT EAP in place to help your employees?

— Is it being utilized?

— What is the “speed to be seen”?

— Does it offer a solution to the majority of issues facing your team?

— When you refer someone to your EAP, do you feel like that was a service or disservice?

– Do your employees KNOW about your EAP – AND is it top of mind?

— Do you have resources to communicate easily about your EAP?

— Are all of the benefits known?

— How much involvement do you get from your EAP provider?

Your Employees Deserve A Comprehensive Solution

The pandemic illustrated how effective a modern, comprehensive approach to employee assistance can be.  A program that is not just a token gesture towards employee wellness but a deeply integrated system of support shows your commitment to employee health. 

Your EAP should include a range of services, such as a private login portal, offering diverse resources; various support options, virtual and in-person counseling sessions, 24/7 mental and emotional support, interactive self-help courses, downloadable worksheet toolkits, financial and legal consulting, and even ID theft protection tools. 

Additionally, employees want to do better in all facets of their life, nutrition education, fitness programming, and access to the latest research and news articles. By addressing a broad spectrum of needs, clients who utilize the Lifestyle EAP ensure that every employee, regardless of their unique situation, has access to the resources they need to thrive.

Real Benefits for Real Challenges

The effectiveness of a comprehensive EAP becomes evident through real-life applications. Consider an employee grappling with stress and work-life imbalance. With a robust solution like the Lifestyle EAP, they can access tailored counseling support with an experienced professional, plus engage in self-help resources at their own pace.

The result is a noticeable improvement in their mental health and productivity. Another employee might struggle with financial stress, a significant but often overlooked aspect of overall well-being. Here, the EAP’s financial coaching and resources provide invaluable support, helping them navigate their financial challenges and reduce related stress. 

These scenarios happen every single week at workplaces across the United States. A well-rounded EAP can make a tangible difference in addressing specific employee challenges, leading to a healthier, more engaged workforce.

What HR Professionals Can Do With Their EAP 

For HR professionals, the role in elevating the effectiveness of your EAP is pivotal. It involves not just selecting the right EAP provider but also ensuring the program’s thorough integration into the company’s culture and operations. 

This requires regular communication about the EAP’s features and benefits, training managers to recognize signs of employee distress and guide them towards the EAP, and creating an environment where seeking help is normalized and encouraged. 

Moreover, regular feedback from employees about the EAP’s effectiveness can help in tailoring it to better meet their needs, ensuring that the program remains relevant and effective.

Getting Real About Real EAP Benefits 

The post-pandemic era calls for a reevaluation of how employee well-being is supported in the workplace. Checking the box with superficial EAPs that are thrown-in with some ancillary benefits is no longer sufficient. 

Instead, organizations must strive to provide comprehensive, responsive, and genuinely supportive EAPs. Such programs are not just beneficial for the employees but are also instrumental in building a more resilient, productive, and harmonious workplace.

You Deserve A Mental Wellness Partner Not Just A Vendor

In our experience in meeting with many of the HR leaders of today, we know how much demand there is on your time. You have probably figured out the hard way that working 80 hours a week is not the solution or a long-term strategy. 

You deserve a partner that listens and takes some of the heavy lifting off of your shoulders, because that’s what a committed partner does. There is a better way for you and your employees when it comes to mental wellness. That better way starts with you reaching out to us so we can listen, we always have an ear at the ready!