Chestnut’s fourth annual report cites five emergent trends and their potential impact on workplace wellbeing, employee assistance, and benefits in 2016.
The 2016 EAP and Wellness Trends and Analysis Report, researched and authored by Chestnut Global Partners (CGP), a leading EAP and providers of an industry standard benchmarking tool that measures EAP effectiveness, details the industry’s most dominant trends and their implications for the coming year. The report gives organizations an origination point from which to strategize — taking some of the findings and “operationalizing” them based on analyses and best practices.
We examined trends within our own book of business, surveyed EAP colleagues, and analyzed recently published research and survey data in the areas of employee assistance services, behavioral health, and workplace well-being. We have highlighted five key trends, with analysises and recommendations for best practice implementation. Here, in brief, were our findings:
Top Five Trends:
- Increasing demand for EAP services due to occupational stress. Users of CGP’s EAP services in North America demonstrated higher levels of occupational distress in 2015. The number of EAP cases for occupational stress (job satisfaction, workload, co-worker conflict) was sixth on the list of top presenting concerns, breaking into the top 7 for the first time since CGP began publishing information on EAP utilization data.
2. More companies are seeking localized EAP services to serve global workforces. As more companies become multi-national, many are looking to extend EAP services outside their “Western” based home country.In 2015, the number of inquiries CGP received for a request for proposal (RFP) for global EAP services increased by nearly 25%. The reasons for the increase were varied but seemed largely driven by 1) a desire by procurement departments to streamline administrative processes and consolidate EAP vendors, 2) ongoing mergers and acquisitions that have in part resulted in a desire to provide consistency in benefit offerings across countries, and 3) increased awareness of service capabilities in emerging markets that previously did not provide EAP services. Yet as the number of RFPs seem to be on the increase, the information often requested by procurement, benefits, or HR departments suggests that many do not always have a clear understanding of how a Western style EAP “transfers” when set up offshore.
3. Utilization of mobile health apps (mHealth) increases; whether they drive outcomes remains largely unproven. In the past two years, the volume of commercialized mHealth applications has more than doubled to over 100,000 (IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics). But while the capability to connect so many individuals to so much information has never been greater, published research is limited as to whether these apps actually improve health outcomes. The American Heart Association (AHA) recently found that “although the number of apps continues to grow at an exponential rate, none have been critically evaluated, and their development was not evidence based, often not building on the theoretical frameworks that address behavior change.”Similarly, the 2015 IMS report states that “the majority of studies published discuss app usage, not app effectiveness in terms of improving health outcomes or lowering healthcare costs.”
4. Recognition of the relationship between fatigue and workplace safety increases. Evidence now shows that insufficient sleep causes impairment in a similar manner to substance misuse. Some industries have begun to develop policies and procedures to reduce the potential health and safety consequences associated with fatigue, replicating a trend of the 1980’s following implementation of the Drug Free Workplace Act. While initial efforts have focused primarily on limiting the maximum number of hours worked per day/week or rotating shifts in a manner that allowed for sufficient rest opportunities, these efforts have been shown inadequate in part because they fail to address the behavioral, lifestyle, and medical conditions that commonly contribute to fatigue. In the last 3–4 years, the concept of an integrated Fatigue Risk Management Systems (FRMS) has begun to establish itself as the gold standard for reducing organizational risk caused by worker fatigue, and a number of industries have implemented one or more of its components.
5. Employee engagement initiatives are having limited impact. Employee engagement in the past decade has shown little improvement. According to a 2015 Gallop poll, only 32% of US employees are engaged, a statistic that has remained relatively unchanged over the past 15 years. Additionally, there has been very little change in approaches to measuring and improving engagement since the initial work began nearly two decades ago. The existing organizational paradigm is still focused on moving engagement levels by changing the corporate culture despite there being little published evidence that this works very well. The report suggests that employers will need to promote user engagement by putting tools in their hands to make them self-motivated and more proactive with respect to deepening their engagement.
“We were pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming response to last year’s trends report and the impact it had on the way organizations thought about and approached EAP and wellness,” said Todd Donalson, CGP’s Director of Training and Consultation, and the lead author of the report. “In addition to addressing the industry’s most dominant trends and their implications for the year ahead, the report enables organizations to strategize around some of the findings and ‘operationalize’ them based on our analysis and best practices.”
To read or download the full report, visit http://bit.ly/2016-CGP-EAP-Trends-Report.