If you build it, they will come

Engaging the workforce with digital EAPs available anytime, anywhere, any way
By Barb Veder
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/09/2013

Digital technology is having a huge impact on the ways workers manage their lives. Things such as shopping, connecting with friends, booking appointments and accessing medical services have changed significantly as the number of Canadians with access to the Internet via their mobile devices skyrockets.

In 2001, just five per cent of Canadians could go online with their mobile devices. In 2012, that number had swelled to 37 per cent, according to an Ipsos Reid report, and that number will only continue to grow.

For employers, that means making an employee assistance program (EAP) available through smartphones and tablets can have a big impact when it comes to productivity, absenteeism and engagement.

People lead complicated lives, perpetually juggling demands to balance multiple commitments both inside and outside work. The logistics of that can be challenging.

By offering high-tech delivery to a tech-savvy employee, employers are not only helping workers solve issues as early as possible, they’re attracting employees who would have never reached out for support.

Two-thirds (65 per cent) of all online text-based messaging counselling service users were first-time users of an EAP, according to a survey by Morneau Shepell.

In addition to the traditional channels, over the phone and in-person appointments with counsellors, EAPs can now be reached through digital channels (including online programs, ecounselling, video counselling, mobile apps, portals or websites and chat messaging services).

And with this growing portfolio of service channels, the cornerstone of service continues to be adherence to the strictest privacy and security, and the highest clinical standards.

Counselling that is delivered digitally through multi-device platforms meets users’ needs in a variety of ways. It gives employees:

• anonymity and breaks down barriers around communication, stigma and accessibility

• strengthened confidence in their employer’s wellness plan

• a heightened sense of security during stressful times

• the ability to access the right support at the right time.

How digital EAP services work

• Through their EAP, users can access online programs by logging into a secure website for customized information on a variety of tools and content including smoking cessation, financial support, separation and divorce, stress management and relationships.

• Similar to emailing, ecounselling allows users to share a series of asynchronistic, written exchanges with a professional counsellor via a private conference portal, and does not depend on quickness of thought or speed of typing.

• Video counselling offers real-time, private and confidential conversations with a counsellor via the Internet and webcam.

• Online, text-based chat services are convenient and provide secure, live or real-time clinical support.

• Video counselling offers real-time, private, confidential conversations with a counsellor via secure, encrypted online software, landline and webcam. Multiple participants such as partners and family members can join in from separate locations.

• Mobile apps, available on a variety of devices — including Apple, BlackBerry and Android — allow users to instantly access professional counselling, learn more about their EAP support services and make bookings with counsellors through live online chat with the touch of the screen or a button on their mobile device.

• Portals and websites offer a variety of information and resources in one location, to help users manage issues with their work, health and life.

No matter what delivery method users choose, one thing remains true: It is critical that employers provide employees with the care and support they need, when they need it, through the method they can best interact with and relate to.

Barb Veder is vice-president of clinical services and research lead at Shepell·fgi in Ottawa. For more information, visit www.workhealthlife.com or shepellfgi.com/myeap.

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