When diving into the definition of health and wellness, it becomes clear how these concepts are interrelated and how, practically speaking, they play a part in every single aspect of our lives. The two are so inextricably interwoven that it makes sense that any divide in maintaining and restoring health and wellness should not exist. In terms of employees’ holistic health and wellness it makes sense that providing proactive education and support through health and wellness programmes should hold hands with EAPs as they assist employees to overcome a range of existing personal issues.
What is health?
In an extended definition of health, the World Health Organisation states, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. It is a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living. Health is a positive concept emphasising social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities.”
What is wellness?
The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness as the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health. This definition of wellness incorporates good physical, mental and emotional health – especially when it is sustained through exercise, appropriate diet and any necessary lifestyle changes.
Wellness is multi-dimensional
Most models of wellness include at least six dimensions:
- Physical: Nourishing a healthy body through exercise, nutrition, sleep
- Mental: Engaging the world through learning, problem-solving, creativity
- Emotional: Being aware of, accepting and expressing our feelings, and understanding the feelings of others.
- Spiritual: Searching for meaning and higher purpose in human existence.
- Social: Connecting and engaging with others and our communities in meaningful ways.
- Environmental: Fostering positive interrelationships between planetary health and human actions, choices and wellbeing.
Maintaining health and wellness requires personal action
Wellness is associated with clear intentions, good choices and taking positive action as a person works toward their optimal health and wellbeing. Broadly stated, “The concept of wellness emphasises personal responsibility in the pursuit of excellence, the cultivation of one’s passions, the refinement of critical thinking skills and the life-long quest for adding meaning and purpose—not to mention other basic lifestyle assets such as humour, play, optimism, physical fitness and more. The best way to maintain health is to preserve it through a healthful lifestyle rather than waiting until sickness or infirmity strikes before addressing health problems.”
The Benefits of Integration
Employees often face multiple, interrelated problems at the same time. Assisting them in solving such compound problems requires a multifaceted approach to effectively resolve each issue and any underlying problem. Traditionally, healthcare benefits, including employee health and wellness programmes (EWPs) and employee assistance programmes (EAPs), have worked in silos, and so have been disconnected. Multiple vendors offering overlapping programmes that do not communicate with one another has led to inefficiency, poor utilisation by employees and redundant costs for employers.
An article published in Health Advocate back in 2017 has this to say: “While traditional EAPs offer a number of advantages, integrating an EAP into an organisation’s overall health and wellness benefits package can vastly increase its positive impact. Connecting the EAP with other resources makes it much easier to identify related needs, gaps in care, and determine appropriate next steps to help employees get the holistic care and support they need. For example, someone who contacts the EAP feeling overwhelmed about a chronic condition may also need help finding a doctor, but they may also be experiencing stress related to paying for needed care. In an integrated model that seamlessly connects benefits services, the employee can quickly and easily speak to a counsellor about stress related to their condition, get help locating an in-network provider in their area, access financial wellness services and tools to help them find the most cost-effective medication, and understand their out-of-pocket costs.
The role of data in personalising employee assistance
The article goes on to say, “Integrating an EAP with other benefits services can also provide a wider range of data for analysis, granting counsellors and other trained support staff a comprehensive, confidential snapshot of the employee’s benefits package and health and wellness measures from the moment the conversation begins. Having this actionable information enables identification of potential gaps in care, providing an opportunity to engage the employee in resources and education specific to their individual needs – all during one call. “This integration of services better supports members and truly addresses and closes gaps in care across a spectrum of issues, including those addressed by EAPs. Beyond utilizing data to identify and support individual at-risk employees, assimilating data can be used to measure the impact of integration and the overall benefits program. A holistic view of an organization’s health and benefits utilization is more actionable and understandable than trying to analyse multiple reports from siloed benefit programmes.”
Maximizing value for organisations and their employees
Particularly in today’s online world, integrating an EAP within an overall benefits programme can support both an organisation and its employees. It can reduce costs, improve productivity and maintain employee health, leading to a more positive workplace culture and an improved bottom line.
“Spanning the continuum of employee needs in this way can make the experience of dealing with an issue more seamless for the employee and ensure that they take best advantage of all of their benefits, including the EAP. This model can have a tremendous impact for the employee, reducing their stress and absenteeism/presenteeism while saving them time and increasing their productivity at work. Furthermore, connecting benefits like EAP with other services creates a seamless, more convenient experience for employers and employees, significantly impacting satisfaction, costs, outcomes and engagement.”
The value of the total employee benefits package can more readily be maximized when its components are combined and fully integrated. In this way an EAP can complement other offerings by ensuring that employees get the full breadth of support and care they need
Photo by Nico Becker