During National Depression Awareness Month, we wanted to take some time to discuss the very normal stress and mental health challenges working families experience as we are increasingly connected to our jobs. As our connectivity to work has grown – between email, texting, chats, phone calls, video conferencing calls, and a myriad of social networking sites – so has the challenge to separate work from our personal lives. Employees are spending an increasing amount of time both at work and thinking about work. Habits such as checking email during a family dinner or ruminating about that email that you’d forgotten to write in bed at night are common experiences for many. Add on top of that a child who’s acting out and a parent who needs a little extra care both physically and financially, and you have a recipe for stress that affects your own health and mindset, as well as potentially relationships with family, friends or colleagues.

Employee assistance programs (EAPs) have been adopted by many employers to reduce the impact of mental health disorders, workplace stress and other work/life issues on workplace productivity. Despite the ubiquity of this employee benefit, which is offered by 97 percent of large employers, utilization hovers around five percent industry-wide. A primary barrier is the stigma of utilizing EAP programs, which were historically grown from occupational substance abuse programs.

While great strides have been made in reducing stigma, a great opportunity lies in changing the premise that stands in the way of employees tapping into services that might help them move forward and find their best self. What if we were to fundamentally remove the premise that there are people with “issues” and people without? The reality is that every employee is faced with their own brand of “juggle,” and stress and anxiety continue to be on the rise as working families live increasingly busy lives.

As Magellan transforms the EAP benefit for modern day workers and their families, we’re driven to provide resources and tools to help people address their mental health challenges before they severely impact their lives and productivity. The pivot lies in helping employees take care of their mental health as a practice of self-improvement and in helping employers position EAP services in their culture of well-being.

There are three essential components to powering this shift in the transformed EAP:

  • Clinically-validated online programs and mobile apps that help employees track and change habits and mindsets
  • When employees experience a bump in the road, convenient access to a coach or therapist that can fit into their harried day
  • Content that inspires, motivates and helps employees feel validated in the normalcy of their stress and feel connected to others tackling similar experiences

Imagine a world where employees give each other a high five for taking some “me” time, leveraging a convenient method of choice, just as they do for someone sticking to their gym routine or running their first 5k. We certainly do!