How are employee assistance programs dealing with COVID-19?

Published On: December 18, 2020|Categories: Employee Assistance Program|
Group of coworkers gathered around the breakfast bar, having a morning meeting

COVID-19 has quickly redefined the concept of normal for so many individuals around the world. From workplace protocol to social activity to the manner in which we shop and travel, this year’s pandemic has ushered in new standards for health and safety.

At best, social distancing and self-quarantining are uncomfortable concepts that we learn to adapt to as months progress. At worst, these byproducts of a global pandemic can trigger underlying mood disorders, cause depression or anxiety events, and allow us to get lost in the uncertainty of our own future.

As a result of this year’s events, employee assistance programs (EAPs) have never been more important. Your EAP program may offer everything from virtual online counseling and marriage and couples therapy, to financial planning services and grief and loss treatment. We certainly make it a habit of offering those core employee assistance services at Mazzitti & Sullivan EAP. In times of unrest and concern like these, EAP services have arguably never been more important.

EAP programs help you address your new normal

In short, employee assistance programs are fulfilling the same role as always during these unprecedented times: supporting health, wellness and well-being for all employees. For many, COVID-19 has changed far more than their work schedule or daily routine. This year has been filled with a unique series of challenges: challenges which can contribute to added stress, trigger anxiety or prolong fear.

Fortunately, EAP programs are geared toward helping employees like you address those exact issues. In fact, your employee assistance program is likely capable of helping you address and mitigate all of the following challenges:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Feelings of grief and loss
  • Substance use disorder
  • Issues with virtual employment or academic work
  • Financial challenges – loans, debt, etc.

How has COVID-19 changed employee assistance programs?

Employee assistance programs offer services that help you thrive despite the challenges you face. And while COVID-19 may have changed the way you work, the way you socialize, even the way you live, you can trust that EAP benefits are still in your corner. While EAP benefits have remained the same despite the onset of the pandemic, the manner in which you likely receive those benefits has changed.

Here’s the most obvious example: it’s no longer realistic to make the trip from your home, or place of work, to the referred counselor, therapist or psychiatrist’s office. Instead, you’ll likely be connecting with your licensed healthcare professional virtually. No matter the service you need, your EAP provider has likely already taken the necessary steps to make the same treatment benefits available to you online.

Depending on the service you offer, you’ll likely experience some measure of online support, in place of in-person programming. For example, individuals accustomed to receiving in-office marriage or couples counseling will instead participate in the same sessions, with the same therapists, through an encrypted online platform. Similarly, substance use or mood disorder therapy will take place online, through a HIPAA-compliant, encrypted online connection.

Other aspects of employee assistance programming have seen obvious changes to conform with new quarantine protocols. For example, even though EAP-referred therapists can prescribe FDA-approved medication, pharmacies are employing their own set of safety protocols to ensure safe medication transactions without compromising health and wellness.

How can I prepare to receive EAP benefits while in quarantine?

There was a time when preparing to attend counseling meant leaving your home early and arriving at the therapist’s office with enough time to complete paperwork. Today, preparing to participate in your EAP benefits means something entirely different.

If you know that you’re going to be connecting online with a healthcare provider, there are still a number of ways that you can prepare yourself ahead of time. First, make sure that all of your technology is working exactly as you’d expect it to. Start by testing your internet connection, to ensure that any online counseling sessions aren’t interrupted by WiFi issues. If you’re worried about the quality of your internet connection, we suggest trying to plug your computer directly into your router.

If other individuals are going to be home during your conversation with your counselor, take some time to ensure that no one else will be tuning in. You can help create a sound barrier between your room and the rest of the house, both by wearing headphones during the session itself and by placing a noise machine right outside of your door. If you don’t have a noise machine, you can always play white noise directly from your phone, to prevent any audio from leaking out.

Lastly, recognize that participating in EAP services remotely is going to be different than in-person employee assistance program benefits. It helps if you take some time before the start of your session, just to set your mind at ease. Participate in a comfortable activity you enjoy, take a bath, read a book, take a quick walk, or otherwise take steps to make sure your mind and body are ready to participate in an open, honest counseling session.

Get the help you need during the pandemic era

COVID-19 may have contributed to remote work and limited social interaction, but employee assistance programs are alive and well, and more helpful than ever. At Mazzitti & Sullivan EAP, we understand how the current situation may have stoked stress, depression, anxiety, even mood or substance use disorders. No matter the issues you’re struggling with, an employee assistance program can help you address life’s challenges head-on. Call 1-800-543-5080 today, or fill out our quick online EAP request form, to learn how you can earn top-shelf employee health and wellness benefits for yourself and your coworkers.

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