The shortcomings of traditional EAPs, and the rise of the active, AI-driven mental health journey.
Challenge: To find a solution that works to solve individual mental health for the people in your care
Scientists, doctors, experts, researchers and psychologists have decades worth of knowledge at what works to improve individual mental health, but more and more people are suffering. It’s getting worse.
This has resulted in lower productivity, high turnover and higher cases of absenteeism and presenteeism. The traditional Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) are failing to provide sufficient support for those with poor mental health or looking to improve their mental fitness leaving businesses and HR professionals seeking out more effective, efficient alternatives.
Solution: Active Digital Mental Health Interventions
Digital mental health and fitness interventions provide a location-independent, accessible approach to employee mental health, and have the ability to adapt to the needs of the user, whether they already suffer with poor mental health or simply want to proactively improve their resilience. Newer interventions, such as Leafyard, also offer an active journey approach, rather than a passive, reactive approach that enables the user to take control of their own mental health. As digital solutions, there is increased uptake, often accredited to their anonymous nature, that rarely comes with the face to face therapy alternatives currently offered through traditional EAPs.
Science knows everything there is that can help people with mental health problems: therapy, diet, sleep, exercise, relationships, changing your thought patterns.
The problem is, people don’t take action. They don’t actually do the things that make them feel better – Leafyard uses behavioural science and artificial intelligence (AI) to enable users to take control of their own mental health and create positive, meaningful, lasting habits.
Outcome: Increased employee productivity, retention and lowered stress without high business input
Your employees learn to manage their own mental health and fitness, leading to improved overall wellbeing, productivity, retention and lowered stress levels. The organisation benefits from a more engaged, positive workforce, whilst digital interventions maintain user anonymity and allows employees to get the help that they need on their own terms.
The Challenges of Typical EAPs
Challenge 1: Purpose
The basic challenge of typical EAPS is that they’re simply not designed with mental health in mind. For the majority of businesses, employees are given a window of time where they can choose a select amount of benefits for the year ahead.
Essentially, EAPs are a portal for a whole host of discounts and perks. This might be extra holiday days, private healthcare, cycle to work schemes or gym memberships etc. However, the infrastructure of EAPs are in direct conflict with the anonymity that is necessary for many people who struggle with mental health to feel comfortable enough to seek help.
Challenge 2: Conflict of interest
By being intrinsically linked to workplace systems, providing mental health solutions through an EAP creates an ecosystem where users believe disclosed information will be easily traced back to them when it comes to decisions around promotions, project choices and performance reviews. This may not be true, however, but when it comes to mental health and the stigma that unfortunately still surrounds it, it’s best to have a church and state approach wherein your chosen intervention is completely separate from any distinguishing data such as work IDs, names or work emails that could provide a link back to the individual. This allows the employee to fully and honestly work on their mental health without fear that their data or information is being fed back to leaders or management that may use it against them in the future.
By separating the mental health intervention from workplace systems, the user is more likely to be open rather than holding back what they deem as potentially incriminating details and be truly able to make the necessary changes to improve their mental health.
Challenge 3: Making mental health physically accessible to employees
EAP-provided mental health interventions are often subsidised or prepaid in person therapy sessions. Of course, in person therapy, depending on the style of therapy and the individual, can be highly effective, however it can present several logistical issues that impact uptake and efficacy.
A major criticism of current mental health services, including in-person therapy is that there is a problem with locality. Funding for these services come through local authorities which have their own individual priorities, meaning some areas have more availability for new clients than others, especially if you’re based in cities as opposed to more rural areas. This has led to lengthy waitlists of up to six months for a first appointment and three months for the second session.
The mental health inventions that are often on EAPs are operated through central providers, with multiple branches or therapists, seemingly to provide more options, however, the set up or redeeming of these services can be a stressful and lengthy process, often over the phone in the individual’s own time. Having to physically speak to someone who often isn’t a licensed mental health professional, about your own personal struggles can be one barrier too far for a lot of people and fundamentally undermines the necessary anonymity that we’ve established is critical for lasting success and impact.
In addition to this, the increase in individual’s displaying signs of stress, depression and anxiety means that these central providers are starting to get more and more overwhelmed with call volume, therefore creating yet another barrier to treatment, where self-service, digital options, such as Leafyard, can be used immediately or alongside these option whilst waiting for in-person appointments.
Challenge 4: Intensity of intervention
Finally, when it comes to mental health solutions that are housed on EAPs platforms, there is normally a one size fits all approach which has been proven time and time again to be ineffective. Mental health, much like physical health, is different for everyone and therefore what works for one person may not work for another. For one, only offering in-person therapy might alienate those employees with mild-moderate mental health concerns as they might not believe they’re “bad enough” to warrant face-to-face interventions. Similarly, it detracts from the increasingly prevalent narrative that mental health, much like physical health, is something we all have that we should be training in order to be more resilient.
For many people, face-to-face therapy is often the last port of call after trying every other solution. If your EAP-based solution only offers that, you’re waiting for your employees and team members to get to that point where they feel like their mental health can only be helped by the most intensive solution. By offering something more proactive, like Leafyard, you’re helping the individual learn to manage their own mental health in good times and in bad, so they can become more resilient in their coping methods.
So, if the EAP-based mental health interventions aren’t fit for purpose, what are the alternatives?
The Alternatives: Digital Mental Health Solutions
Over the past few years, the digital mental health marketplace has flourished with new interventions with differing specialisms. From meditation apps such as Calm and Headspace, to journaling apps, to computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (cCBT) and mood tracking apps, all of them have a specific set of proven mental health techniques. However, the trouble with these kinds of digital mental health solutions is similar to that of existing face-to-face EAP offerings in so much that they tend to focus on one type of therapy to help everyone – something we know to be dangerously inefficient.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
- Cognitive journaling
- Exercise and nature
- Meditation and mindfulness
- Exposure therapy
However, offering multiple mental health interventions can make integration and rollout confusing and fragmented – something that employees are likely to pick up on and be wary of as “fads” as well as being more costly for businesses. Whilst it’s unlikely your chosen intervention is going to tick everyone boxes, by utilising something like the new behavioural science based intervention, Leafyard, which includes everything science knows works to solve mental health, your solution can cover a lot of ground.
It all comes down to whether or not your chosen mental health intervention is actually effective for your given population.
Is it accessible for a wide variety of employees?
By utilising technology, the issue of accessibility for the most part is solved; no waiting lists, no location-based sessions, and secure away from workplace connections and servers. This not only gives the employees peace of mind, but also allows them to complete their mental health journey on their own terms, giving them the sense of being in control which is critical when dealing with and managing their own mental health.
Is the workplace culture positive enough?
First and foremost, the uptake metric is not the be all and end all. It is important, after all you don’t want to be paying for a benefit that no one is using. It must be noted, however, that without a surrounding communication strategy to signpost users and a company culture that lessens the stigma of seeking help, any mental health intervention that sits on an EAP or otherwise is likely to fail – not because mental health isn’t an issue in your organisation, but because employees don’t feel comfortable enough to access help that’s associated with the workplace. It’s a similar issue faced by those not wanting to confide in mental health first aiders that are simply other employees in your organisation that have taken a short course. The trust isn’t there and the culture isn’t there.
Is your intervention clinically validated?
Another point to consider is whether or not the intervention you’re using is clinically validated. Recently, there have been a lot of mental health apps emerging and some are more scientifically and clinically valid than others. You can usually find this information on the product’s website. Think about it this way, you wouldn’t send your employees to a first aider that hadn’t been properly trained – mental health is no different.
Does your intervention have buy-in from the top?
Whenever a new benefit is launched, on an EAP or otherwise, buy-in from the very top is crucial. If management and leadership aren’t on board or visibly cascading and signposting employees towards the new benefit, it’s unlikely to be a success. When introducing the new benefit, you need to first introduce it to key stakeholders so they can understand how it works and become ambassadors for the new programme.
Is your intervention going to provide a lasting active journey?
Finally, you have to ensure that there’s a level of structure and progression to your chosen intervention. Mental health is not something that improves overnight, which is why CBT courses tend to last between 8-16 weeks to allow new positive habits to form and be integrated into the individual’s daily life. Having meditation or journal apps that are solely reliant on the user’s motivation rather than prompting them to act, are less likely to have long lasting, positive effects than structured courses, such as Leafyard.
Similarly, the user has to feel that they’re on a progressive journey, otherwise they may get bored or feel that they’re plateauing when it comes to them getting better. This is common in freeform meditation and journaling apps where there is minimal guidance or instruction, taking more of a stream of consciousness approach to unpacking the user’s thoughts. However, without necessary guidance and introduction of new techniques, we often see users dipping in and out as things get worse, rather than creating sustained change.
To Summarise: When It Comes To Solving Employee Mental Health, Active Journeys Beat EAPs Every Time
- Adaptability is key
- If it’s not anonymous, the uptake won’t be worthwhile
- Interventions that inspire action is the way forward
- Buy-in from the top is massively important
- Accessible and instant problem solving strategies available
- The user takes ownership of their mental health journey
- AI tailors the level of intervention to users needs
So, if EAPs aren’t fit for purpose, what’s the solution?
Leafyard ticks all of these boxes and, more importantly, empowers users to make positive, healthy, meaningful lifestyle changes that stick long term and makes them actually feel better. In addition to this, as a provider of CBT, Leafyard is not classed as a benefit and therefore not taxable, unlike EAPs.
Offering your employees a successful, game changing, innovative mental health solution helps to improve productivity, retention, engagement and overall morale, but critically, it’s the right thing to do.