In Steven Taylor’s book, “The Psychology of a Pandemic,” he states that the psychological footprint of a pandemic is larger than the medical footprint.  Why? Even those who never get sick are affected by the fear, grief, and social/economic impact of the pandemic, and those who do get sick have these challenges on top of their illness.

With unprecedented mental and emotional issues coming into the workplace now, EAPs are an essential tool to support both the employee and the employer.  Here are a few ways to get the most value from your EAP during the pandemic.

Make employees aware of the benefit – Many employees don’t take advantage of EAP benefits because they don’t realize they have them.  Promoting the benefit visibly and often encourages use and brings you the greatest value.  Talk with your provider about a promotional plan that fits your current workplace communication practices.  Consider virtual town halls, online orientations, short videos, EAP links in your wellness communications, and other strategies to keep the message front and center.  Even if employees never use the EAP, they (and you) benefit from knowing you care enough to provide one for them.

Highlight safe, easy access – Employees are concerned about the safety of counseling, and they’re time-pressured – trying to work, teach kids, parent, and stay healthy.  If your EAP has virtual services, emphasize that.  Look for counseling via video, chat, personal messaging, and telephone.  Employees and their family members can have sessions on evenings and weekends right in the comfort of their bedrooms.  An hour of support can make a big difference on a hard day.  Just a quick call or completing an online form begins the process of getting help.

Research extra benefits available during COVID-19 – Your EAP may have special services available during the pandemic.  At First Sun, we have extended benefit periods for those laid off or furloughed and resources and training for COVID-19, including a free Resilience Journey Program.  We provide information and webinars on topics like working from home with children, disaster proofing your finances, grief and change, managing time, and setting boundaries.  Check to see what’s available to you.

Use your EAP to support your organization – EAPs do more than help employees.  Take advantage of your EAP’s expert consultation for HR and leadership.  During COVID-19, we’ve provided consultation on how to support anxious employees, handle those who are disrupting the work environment, or respond to concerns about potential workday substance use by remote workers.  EAP’s can also provide special training on issues like creative well-being, managing remote employees, and returning employees to the workplace.

Ask for what you need – If you have special needs or don’t have a budget for a full EAP, reach out to an EAP provider to ask if they can tailor something to your specific needs. Consider single case use, short-term contracts, virtual training events, or critical incident services.  Strategic support can go a long way to improving your employees’ and your organization’s well-being.

Article by Maria Lund, First Sun EAP.  To connect with First Sun EAP services, please contact Lucy Henry at lucy.henry@firstsuneap.com.  For more information on employee development and support or other HR consulting services, contact us at jennifer@hrexpertsondemand.com.