Many Baby Boomers are continuing to work as they age into their 60s and 70s. Meanwhile, Generation Xers and Millennials have settled into their careers and make up the majority of the workforce. Now, those born in Generation Z are also making their way into the workforce. With as many as four different generations working together, human resources professionals are being forced to find new, innovative ways to meet the needs of every worker when it comes to employee benefits. This is especially true when it comes to health & wellness programs.
Proactively anticipating those needs and explicitly planning for them can help you head off conflict while capturing the advantages of intergenerational collaboration. According to the annual Employer Health Benefits survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Annual Trust, 50% of firms offering employee benefits in 2015 offered health & wellness programs related to tobacco cessation and other lifestyle or behavioral coaching1. Wellness programs that provide holistic education addressing the employee’s mental, physical, financial, family and professional health tend to be the most effective at actually helping workers get healthy and stay healthy.
One way employers are helping employees with behavior modification is incorporating an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) into a health & wellness program. EAPs are confidential, personal counseling services that are provided to the workforce and typically paid for by the employer. Most EAP plans are embedded into group medical or ancillary benefits. There is no copay or out-of-pocket cost to the employee for EAP services.
Typical EAPs can help employees with personal and family issues, as well as a variety of workplace issues, such as:
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Smoking cessation
- Balancing personal and professional life
- Child and family issues
- Debt and money management
- Dissatisfaction with work
One major benefit of adding an EAP to your health & wellness strategy is its ability to assist employees anytime, anywhere. Most EAPs include 24-hour hotlines for workers who require immediate help, whether it’s for a recent workplace dispute or an ongoing substance abuse issue.
EAPs provide direct counseling services by licensed professionals over the phone. Psychologists or other professionals can also help employees set up in-person appointments with medical professionals within a few days, if necessary.
EAPs help meet the health & wellness needs of every worker, regardless of age.
In addition to personal services, EAPs can provide help to organizations facing difficult changes, such as mergers, layoffs, workplace violence or an employee death on the job, absence management, and safety and emergency preparedness.
Of course, after adding an EAP, it’s vital to create consistent messages and encourage employees to use the program. Highlighting the various ways EAPs can be used and communicating, in detail, how the service works, can help to encourage usage. You may even want to target the different generations above for different EAP services. Young Generation Z workers may have a need for family-related assistance, or they may be more likely to use alcohol or drug assistance. Likewise, Generation X employees may benefit from assistance when it comes to caring for loved ones.
However, it’s not enough to simply mention the availability of an EAP during an employee’s orientation, or at an annual open enrollment meeting. Frequent employee education and communication helps to ensure that workers will consider using the EAP when they need it most—in a time of crisis.
Employers today are continually challenged with delivering a health & welfare benefits program that supports budgetary goals, human capital recruitment, retention, presenteeism, productivity, workers compensation and disability risk management. While most employers have an EAP program in place, it tends to be significantly underutilized. Incorporating the EAP program into your wellness strategy encourages your benefit members to seek coaching and education for normal day-to-day matters. With help of an EAP, HR professionals can meet financial and productivity goals while ensuring there are resources to help employees navigate their personal and professional health.
1 Kaiser Family Foundation, “2015 Employer Health Benefits Survey”
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- The Ripple Effect of Employee Advocacy
- Building Employee Health and Wellness Programs that Create Trust
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