Thursday, March 11, 2021

Let’s talk about substituting holistic solutions for traditional EAPs

As a female entrepreneur, I often think about those who supported me along the way to a now 20 year successful business venture. That's why I like to give back and help other women working to have a long entrepreneurial career as well. Meet Amy Denney who is a locally owned small business owner focusing on helping others. She feels strongly that HR professionals can include her services in their overall employee assistance programs. Help me help her by giving the following a read from this "guest blogger".
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Let’s talk about substituting holistic solutions for traditional EAPs

By Amy Denney

There’s a tragedy in Employee Assistance Programs currently: they are underutilized AND they rarely even do what they promise.

This wellness model is intended to give employees access to needed support in the midst of personal life issues and crises. The EAP is often the system of choice for many employers, who struggle because it’s both underutilized and under appreciated by employees.

A 2016 study by Chestnut Global Partners found anywhere from 1.8 percent to 6.9 percent of employees utilize the EAP at all.

It could be because employees are calling the hotline and failing to get support or because many models contract with therapists who aren’t even accepting new patients, according to a Jan. 19, 2021 Forbes article entitled, “Is it Finally Time to Reconsider Employee Assistance Programs?”

Thankfully many employers are seeking out other solutions in addition to their EAP, in part due to the pandemic, though the Forbes article suggests it is simply time to ditch the EAP altogether.

What are the other solutions that are trending? What could take the place of the EAP and provide the needed help in times of crisis?

Anything that emphasizes the mind-body connection is bound to be more effective than simple “talk therapy.” While therapy has its place, in situations of trauma (which can include chronic stress), effective solutions have a physical component.

Holistic approaches to mental health are rooted in science, and addressing both the body and mind in a healthy environment for employees can have a positive ripple effect across the workplace.

Many trauma-informed experts agree that bottom-up approaches (training the body before or alongside the brain) more effectively retrain thought patterns, and can have tremendous impact on the quality of life (and work!) for your employees.

Bottom-up approaches involve a physical element such as movement (yoga/stretching), breathing or meditation. Its impact on the nervous system is tremendous. The heart rate lowers and the body and brain respond with calm and balance. Art, pet therapy and theater can all generate a similar response. These ideas are considered in trauma expert Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk’s bestselling book, “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma.”

It’s pretty darn hard to talk the brain out of ingrained anxiety patterns. But the body can be more easily and gently coaxed.

Another option is science of photobiomodulation (PBM) that impacts the parasympathetic nervous system by releasing nitric oxide, a messenger molecule that promotes vasodilation of blood vessels and mediates communication between nervous system cells. PBM improves the body’s resilience to stress while at the same time elevating focus, improving sleep and giving energy levels a boost.

This is pretty exciting when we also consider stress is at the heart of 80 percent plus of all disease and illness. For employers, it impacts productivity in the workplace, sick days and staff turnover. Consider these statistics from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and business.com:
  • 40 % of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful.
  • 100 million workdays are lost due to stress
  • 75% of employees believe that workers have more on-the-job stress than a generation ago
  • Job stress is more strongly associated with health complaints than financial or family problems
While the science of PBM for mental health is incredible, there are dozens of issues that it can help with — most involving some kind of pain. The Nobel Prize winning science of nitric oxide is touted for improving circulation and immunity.

It’s worth pointing out that pain is another workplace problem. An American Osteopathic Association survey found that more than one-quarter of office workers lose two or more hours a month on work-related tasks because of pain. Overall, according to the Institute of Medicine, the annual cost of lost workplace productivity due to pain is over $297 billion. Opioid use and addiction is another layer of concern that can enter the workforce, both rooted in pain. Getting ahead of addiction is in everyone’s best interests.

Amy Denney is owner of Shine Light Therapy and a certified Holy Yoga and trauma-sensitive Holy Yoga instructor. She has published a white paper on five uses of light therapy in the workplace that can be found at www.shinelighttherapy.com.