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20 Questions with the author of the WOS 2020 report

Published by: TELUS Health,

Mark Attridge, Ph.D., International Consultant and Speaker on Workplace Mental Health and EAP’s

For more insight into Employee Presenteeism and its relationship to the COVID-19 pandemic, check out the EAPA’s article on Medium

Read the full reports here.

    1. What is the Workplace Outcome Suite (WOS)? The Workplace Outcome Suite© is a self-report measure with five questions that each assess a key aspects of workplace functioning of employees: Work Presenteeism, Work Absenteeism, Work Engagement, Workplace Distress, and Life Satisfaction. The questions are answered for the employee’s experience over the past 30 days.
    2. Who answered the WOS questions?  The WOS is designed for people who use counseling services from their employee assistance program (EAP).
    3. When are the WOS questions asked?  The questions are asked twice: first at the start of counseling and second at a longitudinal follow-up done a few months after counseling.  The change over time from before to after counseling can represent improvement in outcomes.
    4. How many different EAPs use the WOS to measure their outcomes?  Over 600 EAPs have requested to use the WOS questionnaire items since 2010.  Over 30 EAPs have shared some of their data for the aggregate database of WOS that was used in the study. Employers and brokers can encourage their EAP vendors and programs to adopt the WOS if they have not already.
    5. How many individual users of EAP counseling are included in the 2020 study?  The total sample is 35,693 employees from 26 different countries. The data was collected over a period of 10 years, between 2010 and 2019, from a total of 38 different EAP provider sources.
    6. Since 2016 there has been one white paper report each year, why are there two reports this year?  The first reports provided the main findings and methodology details for the study.  The second report goes into more depth on exploring similarities and some minor differences in WOS outcomes when examined by 10 contexts of EAP use.  Report 1 is 96 pages and Report 2 is 44 pages.
    7. What were the primary findings of the study?  Each of the five main outcomes on the WOS were scored into two groups of cases who were at-risk (defined as a problem level) or not.  The results found statistically significant reductions in the percentage of all cases who were at a problem level from beforecounseling to after counseling at the follow-up for each of the WOS outcomes.
    8. What did we learn about employee Work Absenteeism?  Almost two-thirds of employees (62%) had zero absence during the month before seeking help from the counselor.  On average, during the month before EAP use the typical employee was absent 6.24 hours and yet only 2.54 hours at the follow-up three months later – which is at the level of the typical employee.  Only about 1 in every 4 cases (29%) missed a half day or more of work time and were considered to be a problem level on this outcome.  After counseling, absenteeism was reduced to just 13% of all cases.  It is clear from these findings that work absenteeism, although definitely a problem area for some employees, is actually not that big a deal for most employees who use the EAP.
    9. What did we learn about Work Presenteeism?  In contrast to absenteeism, work presenteeism was  the main problem.  This outcome represented the greatest percentage of employee counseling cases of all five WOS outcomes who were at “problem status” during the month just before EAP use.  More than half of all cases (56%) reported that their issue was making it difficult to concentrate on work.  The hours of lost productivity while working from presenteeism was 8 times more than the hours of missed work from absenteeism (56 vs. 7 hours during month before EAP use).  After counseling, this problem rate was reduced to 28% of all cases.  Counseling use was associated with cutting the initial amount of work presenteeism in half.
    10. How much work time is unproductive when employees are in personal or emotional distress and seek help from the EAP?  The WOS outcomes of work absenteeism and presenteeism were converted into the hours of lost productive time for work.  For a full-time standard work schedule of 160 hours a month, there is 63 hours of lost productive time experienced by the EAP user when in distress before the start of counseling.  This deficit of almost 8 full work days is more than double that of the typical employee who has 27 hours of unproductivity per month.  After counseling the EAP case average was significantly lower at 36 hours of lost productive time. Use of the EAP reduced the amount of lost productive work time by 42%.
    11. What is the ROI for EAP counseling when based on the results of reduction in lost productive work time?  Cost savings in avoided further unproductive time over a three-month period were estimated for small, medium and large size employers in the United States.  With EAP use rate and WOS outcome held constant, the results took into account realistic differences of higher levels of employee compensation and lower EAP pricing discounts for the large employers compared to the medium and small employers.  A small employer with less than 100 employees, was expected to have a cost-savings of $2,033 per EAP user and a ROI of $3.25:1.  A medium size employer with less than 500 employees, was expected to have a cost-savings of $2,536 per EAP user and a ROI of $5.07:1.  A large size employer with more than 500 employees, was expected to have a cost-savings of $3,497 per EAP user and a ROI of $9.33:1.
    12. What did we learn about overall Life Satisfaction?  More than a third of cases (37%) reported dissatisfaction with their life overall, indicating a level of general distress for about 1 in every 3 employee users of EAP counseling.  After counseling, the rate was reduced to 16% of all cases.
    13. What did we learn about employee Work Engagement?  Before using the EAP, about a third of cases (32%) reported not being engaged in their work.  After counseling, the rate of all cases was reduced to 23%. However, among those seeking help for a workplace related issue (about 1 in every 8 cases), not being engaged in work was the second most common problem area, at 39% of these EAP cases at the start.
    14. What did we learn about Workplace Distress among employees?  Before EAP counseling, about 1 in every 5 cases (22%) reported feelings of dread when going to the workplace (workplace distress). After counseling, this rate was reduced to 13% of all cases.  Among those seeking help for a workplace related issue (about 1 in every 8 cases), this was the third most common problem area, at 38% of these EAP cases at the start.
    15. In general, how consistent are the workplace outcome results for employee users of EAP counseling?  Ten factors for examined to test the consistency of the overall sample results.  These included client factors of age and sex, country (United States, China, New Zealand and others), region of the US, why the EAP was used (clinical issue), model of access to the EAP (vendor, internal to employer or hybrid of both), industry of company where employee worked, source of the referral into EAP (self, supervisor, family/other), how many sessions of counseling were used, and the length of time in counseling. The results found very few meaningful differences in WOS outcomes by these factors.
    16. Which issues or reasons for using EAP counseling have the most impact on work?  The examination of 15 different clinical issues revealed that the mental health issues of depression and grief tended to negatively impact work outcomes the most during the month  before counseling.
    17. Is work performance negatively impacted even when employees are using the EAP for non-work related issues?  Only one in every six users (16%) sought assistance from the EAP for issues related directly to work – either as work stress (11%) or for other more specific work or occupational issues (5%). And yet three fourths of all EAP cases (75%) began their counseling at a problem level on at least one of the four WOS work outcomes. This finding reveals the hidden negative impacts of employee mental health, relationship and life issues on core aspects of work functioning experienced by employees who seek professional counseling.
    18. How much do outcomes vary across different EAPs?  Other exploratory analyses compared 20 different external vendors and also a dozen employer-based programs on key outcomes. The results found large variation between EAP providers when ranking them from highest to lowest on key metrics.  If enough EAPs collect WOS data, there is an opportunity for benchmarking and improving best practices.
    19. How valid and reliable is the WOS as measurement tool for assessing outcomes?  Data from past research and analyses of the current data show that these measures have adequate validity and reliability. Correlational tests between the measures have results in expected patterns, both in data at baseline and in data at the follow-up period. Two mini-studies also indicated that the cases featured in the longitudinal study were similar (or only had small differences) on demographic factors, clinical issues, and initial level of WOS score severity compared to other groups of employees who used EAP counseling but only had completed the WOS at the start of counseling or had not completed the WOS at either time point. This is evidence supporting the representativeness of the WOS study sample as a reflection of all EAP cases.
    20. Who offers the WOS?  The WOS is the only publicly available outcome instrument that has been psychometrically validated and tested for use in EAP settings. It is an easy-to-administer tool that uses a short, precise, and easy-to- administer survey to collect EAP specific outcome. The WOS was first developed by Chestnut Global Partners (CGP) Division of Commercial Science in 2010. The WOS has been owned by Morneau Shepell since December of 2017 when it acquired CGP.

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