How EAP programs rose to the challenges of the pandemic
January 20, 202310:28 am
3 min read
This content is sponsored by Magellan Federal.
The recent pandemic put severe stress on the U.S. workforce, and federal employees were not exempt from that. The sudden change to full-time remote work, financial trouble, health issues and childcare challenges all rose in prominence. To help workforces deal with these challenges, Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) also rose to the forefront, leveraging pandemic-driven technologies to help improve the services they offer. Virtual counseling sessions, digital solutions, live and on-demand webinars and podcasts became more prevalent, as did non-traditional methods for accessing services. Although EAP has been a mandated program for federal agencies since the 1970s, Magellan Federal EAP clients saw an unprecedented rise in utilization (25% to 40%) as a result of the pandemic and decreasing stigma of accessing behavioral and mental health services.
“In the last two years, we’re averaging over 125,000 virtual EAP counseling sessions, up from virtually zero prior to COVID-19,” said John Im, senior director of program management at Magellan Federal, a company that provides EAP services to federal agencies. “Prior to COVID-19, many of the counseling sessions were done in a very traditional method—in person, in the counselor’s office, face-to-face.” During 2022, Magellan Federal offered more than 1,500 live webinars, in-person health and wellness presentations, and orientation, and more than 112,000 federal employees attended these events, an increase of over 26% over FY20. To meet this new demand, Magellan collaborated with vendors to augment its capabilities and increase virtual counseling sessions.
Im further stated that the October 2022 Stress in AmericaTM study published by the American Psychological Association, reported around three-quarters of adults in the U.S. report having stress that negatively impacts their lives. The same study found that around three-quarters of adults in the U.S. reported they have experienced health impact due to stress, including headaches, fatigue, feeling nervous or anxious, and depression.
“Historically, EAPs focused on employees struggling with their daily life challenges which could affect productivity at the workplace,” Im said. “The goal of an EAP is to support those employees and family members who are having life challenges, to be able to thrive, but also to make sure those who are thriving continue to do so. It is essential for an EAP program to benefit all employees not just those dealing with life challenges.”
One of the ways Magellan Federal has become an EAP leader within the federal government is by focusing on a whole-person approach by assessing the entire person, not just a specific presenting issue. For example, if an employee is dealing with financial stress, chances are higher that other aspects of the individual’s life are negatively impacted, such as marriage, access to childcare or healthcare, etc. Magellan Federal considers the entire wellbeing of the employee during every member interaction.
The success of Magellan Federal’s program is tracked through measurable impact on health and productivity. Im said, “The metrics and aggregated data are shared with clients, but they’re also used to help improve services.” Magellan’s data shows the popularity of virtual EAP counseling sessions and members reporting positive outcomes. As a result, they are improving access to virtual EAP counseling sessions by increasing providers and offering online scheduling. Magellan is also seeing the popularity of onsite EAP counselors within federal government increase. Having counselors on the worksite is not only convenient for employees, but it also allows the counselors to obtain a deeper understanding of the agency and its culture to offer more effective support to the employees and the agency during counseling sessions, crisis events, and trainings. Im went on to state that, “With the support of our customers, we really encourage our on-site personnel to promote and educate employees about the EAP program.”
While it’s evident EAPs are being utilized more now than ever before, Im confirms Magellan plans to maintain momentum through continued innovation in its technology. Magellan is already offering an enhanced member portal that utilizes individual survey data to provide personalized wellness suggestions. “The ultimate goal is to continually evolve tools and services to make access to quality work-life services easier for everyone,” Im says.