Rethinking employee support: Beyond traditional benefits of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

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The TL;DR:
  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), offering staff mental health support, have long been the standard, but now forward-thinking leaders are looking at staff wellbeing in a more holistic way.
  • As employee expectations grow, wellbeing support has begun to encompass medical and safety support, as well as mental health.
  • Modern platforms like Sonder are helping businesses tackle issues of staff turnover, absenteeism, presenteeism, and low engagement with the right care, at the right time.
Health-focused leaders understand that investing in the wellbeing and safety of their people forms the foundation of their organisation's long-term effectiveness. Traditional Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) have long been the standard for staff support. While they do offer some benefits, a closer look suggests that these conventional methods may not completely meet the current needs of modern workplace wellness.

The evolution of workplace assistance programs

The EAP has been a fundamental aspect of workplace support for many years, helping employees with personal issues that might impact their work performance. However, the definition of 'assistance' has evolved. It's becoming clear that traditional EAPs alone may not be sufficient to navigate the intricacies of modern health and wellbeing.

In response, new approaches are emerging, providing holistic platforms that go beyond the capabilities of a standard EAP, offering a more comprehensive range of support services.

Sonder is an EAP alternative challenging the traditional EAP model. Sonder's employee care platform provides forward-thinking businesses the next step in employee assistance. It gives workforces easy access to medical advice, safety support and mental health care all in one place.

Comparison of employee assistance offered by traditional EAPs and Sonder.

Understanding employee wellness 101

Traditional EAPs have played a role in offering confidential support, but there's a growing recognition that wellbeing encompasses more than just personal issues and mental health. It's about more than just occasional health check-ups or counselling sessions. It's about creating a mentally healthy workplace where employees are central to the success of the organisation.

Increasingly, traditional EAP programs, whether they are in-house or outsourced, are failing to meet the complex and diverse needs of the modern workforce.

"No disrespect to our prior EAP providers, but they aren't in the 21st century."

- Kate Mayers, WHS Manager - People & Culture | Best & Less

Why counsel alone does not cut it anymore

Counselling services are a vital component of any support system, but they are just one piece of the puzzle. Sonder's approach integrates medical advice, safety, and health and safety support, ensuring that employees can access comprehensive care.

Since your team's health, safety and wellbeing issues don't exist in isolation, Sonder's platform gets to the root cause of your people's challenges.

This multifaceted strategy not only reduces absenteeism but addresses burnout and presenteeism, where employees are present but less motivated and less communicative due to underlying issues. While traditional EAPs focus on counselling services, they often lack the resources for preventative care and holistic support, which are key to addressing these issues effectively.

Platforms like Sonder also ensure that employees and their families receive timely support, which can have a positive ripple effect across the entire organisation. After all, workplace absenteeism and presenteeism can prove costly. Absenteeism costs the Australian economy $35+ billion annually in wages and lost productivity, and presenteeism costs $34 billion.

Employee benefits redefined by Sonder

When evaluating the benefits of employee assistance, there's a clear distinction between traditional EAPs and more comprehensive platforms. Traditional EAPs typically focus on providing confidential counselling to employees. In contrast, a platform like Sonder is designed to address a broader spectrum of issues.

Offering a more extensive suite of services compared to traditional EAPs contributes to creating a work environment where employees feel thoroughly supported. This can lead to lower turnover rates and higher employee engagement levels.

"We support nearly a million employees with a simpler, more engaging way to access wellbeing and safety support. We want employees to always know where to go, 24/7, especially when they are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. We've seen people get lost in the complex maze of support services that other employers offer, and when that happens, the sad thing is, many people give up before they even get started."

- Craig Cowdrey, Co-Founder and CEO, Sonder

The business case for a modern employee wellness program

Investing in employee wellness goes beyond fulfilling a HR obligation. It has become a strategic decision that can yield significant returns. When considering an investment in a comprehensive wellness platform on a per-employee-per-year basis, it's not just about affordability. It's a proactive step towards achieving considerable savings by reducing employee absenteeism and enhancing productivity. Balancing the cost against the benefits of a healthier, more engaged workforce makes the value of such an investment evident.

Today, as business leaders have become more attuned to the flow-on business benefits of a healthy workforce, and people leaders have become more data-savvy, the two camps are building alignment around an agreed return on value (ROV) assessment - which considers the program, business, and people impact. This blog post shares more on ROI statistics, plus an overview of ROV assessment measures.

We also know that quantifying the business case for improving safety support can be challenging so we have built a calculator to help demonstrate the impact poor wellbeing can have on your organisation. Try it here.

Infographic with two sections. On the left, 'Direct Financial Benefits' include reduced absenteeism, presenteeism, compensation costs, and improved productivity. On the right, 'Indirect Financial Benefits' cover improved employee wellbeing, morale, engagement, and organizational resilienc

Critical incident response: EAPs vs. Sonder

In the event of a critical incident, the response provided by a traditional EAP can differ significantly from that of more advanced platforms.

It's rare for a traditional EAP to focus on post-incident support that falls outside the remit of counselling. Meanwhile, platforms like Sonder are designed to offer immediate and effective assistance. For serious or life-threatening situations, Sonder has a nationwide team of in-person responders, typically emergency services-trained personnel, who can help when the situation warrants an in-person response. This ensures that employees get the help they need promptly, which can be crucial in managing the immediate impact of such incidents.

Productivity and employee retention: The EAP connection

Happy and healthy employees, who are satisfied with their employer's wellbeing offering, are more likely to thrive at work, and less likely to look for another job. In that sense, providing an EAP, or more advanced wellbeing service, can form part of an attractive package of benefits. These can help to keep people engaged and focused within their roles, and less likely to look elsewhere for work.

However, this only works if employees are aware of the services, and use them. Traditional EAPs, while well-intentioned, experience a utilisation rate as low as 5%.

Advanced platforms focus on offering services that employees are more likely to use. With Sonder, members can access confidential support via an app which is there for them 24/7, helping to deliver 20x the uptake of traditional EAPs.

Supporting, attracting and retaining talent

A culture of care not only signals to current employees that the business is a place they can thrive professionally and personally, but prospective employees too. But it's important businesses prioritise the right benefits. 84% of employees believe it's important for employers to offer personal safety benefits and 39% of employees with access to gym/ fitness services would prefer to have access to doctors and nurses.

As businesses look for new ways to attract talent, wellbeing support can also be a core differentiator. 91% of employees said it's important their next employer offers mental wellbeing support.

"We know that talent attraction is a vital piece in a competitive market. So as modern workplaces evolve, mental wellbeing is no longer just a matter of health and safety. It has become an essential component of your employee value proposition."

- William Prest, Business Director HR, Hays.
Infographic displaying data and statistics on employee satisfaction levels regarding mental wellbeing and health support in the workplace

Want to learn more?

Dive deeper into the world of EAP alternatives and discover how they can transform your organisation with our ultimate EAP buyer's guide.

  • Learn how to compare vendor offerings
  • Discover what makes EAP alternatives different
  • Gain insider tips and statistics
  • Write a convincing business case

Discover a modern approach to employee wellbeing with Sonder

EAPs have long been a cornerstone of employee support in many organisations. However, as the workplace evolves and the needs of employees change, so too must the support structures in place. With platforms like Sonder challenging the traditional EAP model with its complete care platform, it's clear that the future of employee assistance is set to be more holistic, comprehensive, and aligned with the modern needs of the workforce.

Ready to experience the future of employee assistance? Book a demo with Sonder today and witness firsthand how we're helping organisations empower people to be at their best. Providing support through the right care, at the right time.

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Sonder is reimagining health, safety and wellbeing support. Sonder proves human centric care leads to earlier intervention. Sonder impacts one person at a time to drive meaningful change across an organisation. Sonder understands people and how to support them.

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