Employee assistance programs are evolving and adapting to changing technology and to the needs and perspectives of younger workers. In doing so EAP services are being made more accessible to their employees. For example: using online interactive assessments of drug and alcohol use or text messaging and emails to facilitate supportive communication for employees – or webinars and online training for supervisors.
Here are three ways in which technology is making a difference to EAPs:
Technology can facilitate access to help that is anonymous and confidential
While organisations, employee assistance professionals and allied services continually work to reduce the stigma around mental illness, many workers are still uncomfortable asking for help or access to resources ‒ especially from their employer. Regardless of whether an organisation is a SME or a large corporate, each one has the ability to create a safe space for their employees who are dealing with mental health issues, particularly with modern digital platforms at their disposal. Whether your employees are looking for strategies to help ease their stress or seeking information about a particular mental disorder, they deserve to receive assistance without worrying that it will affect their employment.
The great thing is most South Africans own a smart phone, and offering access to quality mental health support on their personal digital device increases the likelihood that they will use the information or programmes their employers provides – especially if they are enabled to access the information at a Wi-Fi hotspot, or without having to spend a fortune on data.
The promise of anonymity and confidentiality is very helpful in ensuring employees get help in a timely manner that is also compatible with their needs. In addition, sharing mental health resources digitally means employees don’t have to feel pressured about attending live seminars or finding time in their busy schedules to keep an appointment with a professional.
Technology can make access easy and uniform for all employees
One way of ensuring easy access is by using digital resources. In this way it doesn’t matter whether your employees sit at a desk at head office, work in a branch office or out on the road; having easy digital access to mental health support ensures that all employees can use EAP services whenever and wherever they need it.
It is crucial that these resources be as universally accessible as possible. If employees don’t know that an organisation provides digital mental health resources, or if they have to jump through hoops to tap into them, they are not going to take advantage of these resources. By keeping account creation and login processes simple any barriers to using the information will be reduced. This entails not only ensuring the information or a programme is properly formatted to work across a variety of devices – computer, tablet or smart phone – but also that users with disabilities, such as visual or hearing impairments, can also make use of these resources.
Technology allows support for employees and families who need help
Technology can make sharing information fast and efficient. It allows employers to leverage the scalability that technology affords and provide mental health support not only to their employees, but to their employees’ families as well.
Every person who works for an organization has a life outside of their job, and family stress can seriously impair an individual’s quality of work and productivity. None of our experiences happen in a vacuum and it’s hard not to internalise the problems that loved ones are going through. Typically, the longer an individual goes without addressing an issue the more of a domino-effect it can have on work the people around them.
Here are five examples of different channels and digital EAP services facilitated through technology:
1. 24/7 access to EAP services via phone, text, email or chat
2. Virtual and online clinical sessions
3. Information and EAP programmes through mobile apps and resources
4. Flexible training formats with orientation videos on You Tube
5. Crisis outreach on social media
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