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Power of Your Employee Assistance Program

Unlocking the Power of Your Employee Assistance Program

It’s not an easy time to be an employee (or an employer). Employee stress levels are soaring, according to Gallup's latest State of the Global Workplace report. This stress is affecting how engaged employees are, their satisfaction, productivity, and loyalty. As the demands of modern life keep growing, it's crucial to tackle these issues for the well-being of employees and long term success.

In this environment, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) stand out as an excellent resource. These programs can provide a wide range of services to support employee well-being and organizational health. EAPs offer invaluable assistance to employees dealing with professional and personal issues.

Unfortunately, despite their incredible potential, EAPs frequently go unused. Understanding the full scope of EAP benefits, the reasons behind their underuse, and implementing best practices for their usage can significantly enhance their effectiveness.

What is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)? What is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?

An EAP is a work-based intervention program designed to help employees to resolve personal problems that might adversely affect their work performance, health, and well-being.

What are some common services included in EAPs?

EAPs often vary from business to business, and their offerings may differ based on company needs and resources. However, some of the most common topics that EAPs can help employees with include, but are not limited to:

  • Financial Services. These programs can provide advice and resources to help employees manage money better. This may include budgeting, debt management, and planning for the future.

  • Workplace issues. Challenges at work, dealing with stress, resolving conflicts, advancing in careers, and adjusting to change are all examples of workplace issues that EAPs can support.

  • Counseling Referrals. EAPs offers easily accessible support from qualified professionals for personal, family, and work-related issues. Counseling services can include assessments, short-term counseling sessions, or referrals.

  • Family Services. These programs assist employees and their family through matters like parenting, finding childcare, family issues and more.

  • Mental Health Programs. These programs promote mental well-being through activities, workshops, or resources that help reduce stress, build resilience, and raise awareness about mental health.

  • Health and Care. Employees not only focus on their own health, like exercising or managing illness, but they might also care for family members. EAPs help employees find elder care, daycare, nursing homes, or in-network doctors, making it easier to handle these healthcare needs.

  • Work-life Balance Assistance. Work-life balance has become increasingly important in recent years. Through EAPs, employees have assistance balancing work and personal life by offering tips for managing time, dealing with stress, or arranging flexible schedules.

Benefits of EAPs

EAPs can have a dramatic impact where they are successfully deployed and utilized. Even better, they hold benefits for both employees and employers.

For Employees

  • Holistic Well-being

EAPs support the overall well-being of employees by offering a wide range of services. From counseling to financial advice, EAPs address various aspects of employee's lives. This means they can provide benefits that employees might not find elsewhere. By considering a holistic approach to employee health, EAPs can create a supportive environment where employees feel valued and cared for.

  • Accessibility and Convenience

Most EAPs are designed to be easily accessible, offering 24/7 support through various channels such as phone, online platforms, or in-person sessions. "There's a convenience factor," Dave Sharar, chief clinical officer for Chestnut Global Partners, told the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). "It eliminates travel time and provides greater flexibility in scheduling."

  • Financial Advantages

EAP services are typically free to workers; unlike health insurance, they typical include no co-pays or deductibles. Sometimes that can even make services available that would otherwise be out of reach.

“Couples counseling isn't usually covered by health plans," Tom Farris, CEO of Claremont EAP, told SHRM by way of example. "We can counsel couples at no cost to them. That's a real savings."

For Employers

  • Enhanced Productivity

Studies have shown that EAPs can lead to improved employee productivity. For instance, the Federal Occupational Health (FOH), a provider of occupational health services in the federal government, reports that EAPs have been found to result in an a reduction of presenteeism (present but not working at full productivity) of 8%. That can enable organizations to regain lost productivity.

  • Reduced Absenteeism

By addressing personal and work-related issues proactively, EAPs can help to reduce absenteeism. Research indicates that employers can observe a significant decrease in absenteeism rates, with some studies noting reductions ranging between 46% and 70% after EAP intervention.

  • Cost Savings

The investment in EAPs often results in substantial cost savings for employers, through reduced healthcare costs, lower rates of absenteeism, and decreased turnover. For every dollar invested in an EAP, employers can see an ROI of anywhere from $5 to $16.

Why Are Employees Not Using EAPs More? 

Despite the benefits for everyone involved, EAPs are often not used as much as they should be. According to a study looking at EAP use during the COVID-19 pandemic, the main reasons workers didn’t use available EAPs included difficulty accessing the EAPs (53.1%) and a lack of awareness about them (11.3%).

The last point is key: EAPs tend to get lost in the noise of discussion around employee benefits. As a result, many employees are simply unaware that their employer offers an EAP or do not fully understand the range of services available to them.

Alternatively, they might know about the EAP but not fully understand its offerings. For example, some employees might believe that EAPs are only for serious issues or crises, not realizing these programs can assist with a broad spectrum of concerns, including stress management, career development, and legal consultation.

The accessibility issue is another common problem. For some, the process of accessing EAP services may seem daunting or inconvenient, especially if the sign-up or utilization process is complicated or involved.

5 Best Practices for Maximizing the Use of EAPs

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) offer valuable support for employees, but their effectiveness relies on how well they are used. Employers can maximize the benefits of EAPs by considering the following best practices:

Offer an EAP in the First Place

The foundational step is for employers to offer an EAP. By doing so, this signals to employees that their well-being is a top priority. It also provides a concrete support system for addressing personal and professional challenges.

An EAP is more than just a program - it's a proactive approach to employee wellness and business success. Employees feel valued knowing their employer recognizes their needs. It also creates a sense of security, knowing they have support when issues come up.

Communicate About the EAP to Employees

It's important to communicate clearly and regularly about the EAP. Employers should use various channels such as emails, staff meetings, internal sites, and orientation sessions to ensure that employees understand the services available and how to access them.

"HR doesn't publicize EAPs enough," Steve Albrecht, who manages a San Diego-based training, coaching and consulting firm, told the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). "Just talking about it during employee orientation is not sufficient."

Ensure the EAP is Easy to Access and Use

Simplifying the process to access EAP services can greatly increase their use. This includes offering multiple access points (phone, online, in-person), ensuring user-friendly interfaces for digital platforms, and providing clear, step-by-step guides for employees seeking to use the EAP.

Educate Managers and Supervisors

Training for managers and supervisors on the benefits and availability of EAP services can help them to become effective referral sources. They play a critical role in recognizing signs of distress among their teams and can guide employees towards the EAP as a resource.

Regularly Review and Tailor EAP Offerings

Employers should periodically review the utilization and effectiveness of their EAP, seeking feedback from employees and adjusting services as needed. Tailoring the program to reflect the specific demographics and challenges of the workforce can enhance its relevance and use.

Altogether, EAPs represent a powerful tool for enhancing employee well-being and organizational health, offering a wide range of benefits for both employees and employers. Overcoming barriers to utilization requires a multi-pronged approach that includes clear communication, easy access, privacy assurances, and a supportive culture. By implementing these best practices, employers can unlock the full potential of their EAPs, leading to a more engaged, productive, and healthy workforce.

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