The Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) exists within a hospital’s benefits program to support hospital employees and their dependents, helping them cope with personal and workplace issues. The intent is to provide a healthier workplace, and help maintain employee engagement. Some hospitals make better use of their EFAP than others, but there are creative ways to leverage your EFAP and increase the return on investment for this valuable employee and organizational resource. It starts with a strategic shift in thinking: stop thinking about EFAP as a reactionary service and look at it as a strategic wellness partner, complementing your internal programming. Here are five ways to do that.
1. Integrate EFAP with your wellness committee.
A robust wellness committee comprises front-line staff and those who monitor benefits information (i.e., Director of Benefits). It should also include HR, occupational health professionals, practice leaders, and senior management. The committee’s mandate is driven by information – organizational metrics on short-term and long-term disability trends, absenteeism, health plan utilization, and engagement surveys – all the data points that measure the wellness of your workforce. Such information is vital because these cost drivers impact hospital efficiency. Consider having your EFAP representative participate in committee meetings to help ensure communication, and that use of the EFAP is aligned with your data and wellness objectives.
2. Develop a targeted, internal communications plan.
Creatively promote your EFAP to employees, and technology can help. If someone has a problem at home that impacts their job – perhaps involving a spouse, children or elderly parents – they must know where to turn for help. It’s great if they can speak to their manager, but many people don’t, or won’t. Think of every person and resource this employee might turn to in their time of need, and make sure every resource person has education on the EFAP services, effectively making them a supportive referral agent. If you think your employee would use the hospital’s intranet (internal web for employees) or internet to get help, access to your EFAP provider’s site or to your insurance partner’s portal should be made as easy as possible. If your EFAP offers a smartphone application, consider deploying it on company-issued devices so people leaders and others have ready access both to contact information and resources when they identify a potential issue or employee in need of support.
3. Build stakeholder relationships.
Identify those parties who will leverage the EFAP as a resource – executives, people leaders, union leadership, occupational health workers – and see that each of them gets face time with whoever is running the EFAP. Why? Every one of these people should be ambassadors for the EFAP. This is about buy-in from the people who matter and who can make a difference. In this way, they and your EFAP can better respond to any employee situation.
4. Leverage workplace training through your EFAP provider.
Hospitals have seen every type of situation – the authoritarian doctor who unloads on nurses, the nurse who unloads on technical staff, incidents of violence and harassment involving not only staff, but patients and family members of patients. These interpersonal challenges detract from the personal health, wellness, and effectiveness of staff. EFAP training services for people leaders – both in-class and online – can help leaders recognize the symptoms of employees in trouble, and coach them on how to help defuse such situations. For example, personnel who are experiencing compassion fatigue – burnout from caring for others while not necessarily taking care of themself – will benefit from one-on-one resiliency coaching on self-care, courtesy of your EFAP provider. EFAP providers offer seminars and workshops on specific issues, such as workplace violence prevention, or averting ‘peer-to-peer’ bullying. These issues are not isolated, but long-term issues which, when untreated, lead to organizational crisis. As such, it is best practice to incorporate targeted strategies with support and education offered over 18 months or more.
5. Make the most of online services.
Hospitals often attempt to offer wellness events for staff, which produce low attendance. The reality of the high-pace, healthcare environment with changing priorities is a big hurdle. Leveraging your EFAP’s online, 24/7 wellness programs with Just-In-Time access can help. These services allow employees to log into secure websites, receive support through coaching on the telephone, view wellness videos, and “chat” live with counsellors on the Internet. Such services are offered at the most convenient time for the employee, and are conducted in absolute privacy. Indeed, an online JIT service is a cost-effective resource that is convenient for shift-work employees, resulting in long-term organizational savings. The key is that employees can address the very issues that will prevent them from attending work before absence becomes a reality.
Remember, it all comes back to taking maximum advantage of your EFAP provider’s capabilities, and working with them in partnership to protect your most valuable asset – your employees.