Is your EAP open when employees need help the most?
Much has been said in the media about people waiting longer for medical care and mental health support. But, what's not being said is that many people are waiting unnecessarily because their employee assistance program (EAP) is not open when they need it.
Some EAP services are open 9am-5pm. Others stay open until 9pm but for crisis-only assistance or only for appointment setting. Some modern EAP alternatives are open 24 hours, 5 days a week. Others never close.
This blog post aims to help HR managers and business leaders to know what's normal, what's possible, and why it's so important to help their people access 24/7 care.
When do people need care?
Data from our sample cohort of 10,000+ active member support cases (across various industries) showed 57 per cent of people reached out for support after business hours. That means that if we hadn't been open 24/7, most people would not have accessed the care they needed when they needed it.
Many members stated they would not have reached out for help at all if their employer had not provided them with a 24/7 option for care. This is perhaps because, similar to how Netflix audiences love to stream their favourite shows at a time that suits them, people want support at a time that is convenient for their work/life/ exercise/family/friend/carer commitments - which is typically after business hours.
Interestingly, our data showed no statistical association between the presenting issue (and severity) and when members reached out for help. This evidence suggests that members reached out for help when they needed it and for the issue they had at that moment - with minimal predictable patterns of support-seeking behaviour. Read the full report here.
When are EAPs open?
Traditionally, most employee assistance programs were only open 9am to 5pm. These days, most EAPs also offer after-hours care. However, their level of care after 5pm can vary significantly (especially if it is not crisis-related and thus extremely time-sensitive).
That's why HR managers need to understand typical options, clarify expectations, and establish clear service level agreements (SLAs) with their EAP (or EAP alternative) provider. This will give you confidence in your provider's capabilities and deliver peace of mind that your people can access the care they need when they need it.
Here's an example chart to explain common support options for EAP hours of care:
Why is it important to help people access 24/7 care?
Unfortunately, not everyone has equal access to care. For example:
- A $50 gap payment at the local doctor might be insignificant to one employee but an insurmountable barrier to another.
- A five-hour wait at the emergency room might be inconvenient for one colleague, but an impossibility for another if they cannot leave their children at home alone at night or cannot access reliable and affordable transport in the evening.
Similarly, people can't schedule a 'good time' to be unwell. If they need safety, medical, or mental health support after hours, they can't always delay care until 9am (or delay care indefinitely, if they can't seek care during business hours).
Employees need support on-demand, and the best way to help them get well sooner is to provide an EAP (or EAP alternative) that gives them access to care at all hours of the day and night.
Dr Jamie Phillips, MB ChB, AFCHSM, DIMC RCS(Edin), MRCGP(UK), FACRRM(EM), Medical Director at Sonder, comments:
"Access block for medical and mental health care is the most pressing issue of our time. More and more members are reaching out to us because they are feeling blocked from accessing care due to cost, or they cannot access quality care within a reasonable amount of time.
For the first time in Medicare's history, the average out-of-pocket cost (gap payment) for a standard GP consult exceeds the Medicare rebate that a patient receives. With the average out-of-pocket charge increasing by 50 per cent over the last decade, people are increasingly looking for alternative ways to access professional medical care."
This means that if employers want their people to be well and perform at their best, many employees need help to access care.
It's easy for well-intentioned HR managers to skim over the "hours of care" fine print when comparing EAPs (and EAP alternatives). But this is a mistake. It's important to know not only exactly when your wellbeing support provider operates, but to ask your volunteers to offer feedback on their experiences, and to test the support services yourself - at various hours of the day and night - so you can understand first-hand the employee experience.
Helping your people access 24/7 care will not only help them get well and stay well, but logically (given the longer opening hours), it should also improve two key metrics in your HR monthly reports - EAP utilisation and EAP engagement rates - which in turn should help support your next budget request for either EAP renewal or alternative employee wellbeing support.
Download our deep-dive report
Today's blog post shares excerpts from our new 'How to compare EAPs' guide, which we invite you to download here. This insider's guide to employee assistance programs will help you:
- Define a typical EAP offering
- Summarise why employee uptake has been low
- Discover what makes EAP alternatives different
- Learn how to compare vendor offerings
- Gain insider tips and statistics
- Write a convincing business case
Want to learn more?
Sonder is an Active Care technology company that helps organisations improve the wellbeing of their people so they perform at their best. Our mobile app provides immediate, 24/7 support from a team of safety, medical, and mental health professionals - plus onsite help for time-sensitive scenarios. Accredited by the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS), our platform gives leaders the insights they need to act on tomorrow's wellbeing challenges today.