Benefits & Work-Life Focus
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Is Your EAP Ready For Workforce 2020?


By Lynn Hamilton, Magellan Health  |  January 2016

Think about the work you were doing 20 years ago during the 1990s. Furthermore, think about how you were doing that work. Email and cellphones were in their infancy. Telecommuting was almost unheard of. And when you left work, you did so without email or texts to check on your phone, voicemail to access remotely or social media to review.

The world is a different place than it was 20 years ago. In less than 5 years, workforce 2020 will again change the way in which we view the workplace and our productivity within it. By 2020, Millennials (born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s) will make up 46% of all workers in the United States, resulting in a strong shift in workplace culture and behavior. At the same time, there is a significant percentage of Baby Boomers waiting longer to retire, members of Generation X taking on senior leadership positions and individuals in their 70s and 80s remaining in the workforce. Workforce 2020 will also be multicultural — more racially diverse, more evenly split between genders and more ethnically varied than any workforce before it. Lastly, workforce 2020 will be multiskilled, with a large percentage of employees who have grown up with technology completely integrated into their lives. For example, 91% of business decisions are now preceded by a Google search.

Building an Employee Assistance Program for Workforce 2020

Given these huge changes in the future workforce, the biggest challenges that businesses face are not that people look or sound different, it's that workforce 2020 has a different attitude toward employment and benefits. For example, 64% of Millennials would like to work from home and 66% would like to shift their work hours from the traditional 9-to-5. This shift in attitude can be especially tricky when it comes to benefits. What once may have been a particularly strong or desirable perk may no longer be viewed as such.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), in particular, need to be reshaped to meet the needs of Workforce 2020. The vast majority of EAPs were created 20 years ago. While there have been small updates along the way, these EAPs were not designed with workforce 2020 in mind.

Perhaps the most important part of an EAP program designed for workforce 2020 is its use of technology. While the option to see a provider in person is important to have, Millennials will appreciate the opportunity to leverage technology to help them address work or personal concerns or questions. Furthermore, employers will appreciate this flexibility because it cuts down on the amount of time taken away from work.

An EAP that meets the needs of workforce 2020 must have 5 key tenets:

  • Computer-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CCBT). CCBT helps employees manage behavioral-health concerns including anxiety, insomnia, depression and substance abuse. These treatment options address more than 80% of emotional-health issues. Proven to be as effective as in-person therapy, CCBT allows employees to manage their conditions when and where they are most comfortable through online modules accessible on any device.
  • Telecoaching. Tele-coaching affords employees the opportunity for live coaching with a behavioral-health expert over the phone without having to take time out of work or having to leave their homes. Coaches provide help and motivation in resolving common problems and help improve health and well-being.
  • Live Chat. Live chat allows employees to get instant assistance online for their questions and concerns and to speak with an expert confidentially to help find resources for a wide array of personal, family and work-related concerns.
  • Incentives and Rewards. Incentives and rewards should be part of an integrated wellness program that helps encourage employees to improve their own health. Using games and real-world rewards, employees are motivated to take charge and get healthy.
  • Cultural Competency. Cultural competency across EAP resources is critical. As our society and workforce have become much more diverse in recent years, EAP resources must be prepared and knowledgeable when talking to a blend of ethnic and social groups. Similarly, an EAP must be able to assist employers and managers to become familiar with cultural competency concerns and to educate on the importance of language and behavior when communicating cross culturally.

It's true that workforce 2020 is vastly different than any other workforce before it. But with an EAP that leverages technology, supports diversity and embraces new ideas and approaches to employee health and wellness, employers can attract, retain and grow a workforce of all ages that is committed to performing well and staying healthy.

About the Author

Lynn Hamilton is the senior vice president of behavioral health for Magellan Health's direct-to-employer business.


Read the January edition of Benefits & Work-Life Focus.

Contents © 2016 WorldatWork. No part of this article may be reproduced, excerpted or redistributed in any form without express written permission from WorldatWork.

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