Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), offered by 79% of today’s employers, are more than just a resource for mental health services. They also provide a unique level of benefits-driven support that can help employees achieve a better work-life balance.
In this piece, we’ll take a look at the many benefits of EAPs, some commonly overlooked EAP services, and how to promote EAPs to encourage employee participation and share information that helps them access the right assistance for their needs.
The Benefits of Employee Assistance Programs
In many cases, Employee Assistance Programs are only utilized during times of trauma or crisis, but the benefits of a robust EAP range from the ability to offer counseling, referrals and other mental and wellness services to an improvement in overall employee engagement, retention and even productivity.
Here are a few of the organizational benefits of implementing and promoting an EAP:
- EAPs can be leveraged to help employees keep their stress levels under control, which is particularly helpful and necessary during these challenging times.
- EAPs can encourage a decrease in absenteeism. When employees have access to resources that help them mitigate stress, they are less likely to call in sick and more likely to witness an increase in energy and improved time management skills.
- When their stress is properly managed, many employees become more productive and notice an increase in focus. This can reduce the incidence of work-related accidents, lowering workers’ compensation claims.
- EAP services signify caring and empathy on behalf of the employer. This can lead to an increase in employees’ feelings of loyalty toward the organization and thus improve overall employee retention.
- In some cases, EAP programs offer assistance directly to employers in resolving ongoing issues or providing consultations within the organization on how to mitigate difficult workplace situations.
Commonly Overlooked EAP Services
Here are a few commonly overlooked health and wellness issues that EAP services cover, which can be particularly helpful to employees and their families during these unprecedented times we live and work in:
- Anxiety and depression
- Feelings of fear and isolation
- Stress management
- Substance abuse issues
- Grief management
- Sleep disorders and disruptions
- Virtual schooling and childcare issues
- Elder and dependent care issues
- Financial issues and complications (i.e. debt management, investment losses, wage reductions, etc.)
- Housing issues
- Family and parenting challenges
- Workplace change management issues
- Global workforce issues
EAPs are often associated with mental health services, but many employees could be missing out on key family, financial and legal resources.
Promoting the Employee Assistance Program
Increasing employees’ knowledge about the many beneficial EAP services available to them requires proactive communication on behalf of the employer.
There are a few key considerations to make when promoting the Employee Assistance Program:
Start with Awareness
Begin by educating employees on how to access EAP services so they can start the process of gathering information for themselves.
- Use your most common communication channels and methods first. EAP information can be shared through staff email, at town hall meetings, in a monthly newsletter, on the employee intranet, and during new employee on-boarding and orientation.
- Important information trickles down from the top. Arm executives, managers and leaders with everything they need to communicate EAP facts to employees.
- Create a campaign around mental health awareness and promote the EAP services in all communications and collateral materials.
- Feature EAP prominently in any wellness or benefits fairs and perhaps invite an EAP consultant or representative to answer employee questions at the event.
Be Mindful of Mental Health Stigmas
Many employees may be quick to write the EAP off because of its association with mental health issues. It’s important to plan ahead for this unfortunate workplace stigma and attempt to cut it off at the pass.
- Think about rebranding away from the traditional EAP rollout by positioning it as an overall wellness benefit that promotes a healthy work-life balance.
- Highlight those commonly-overlooked EAP services above, like dependent care issues, sleep disorders, or workplace change management in light of COVID-19.
- Underscore the fact that EAP services are for more than just times of crisis.
Address and Maintain Confidentiality
With the stigma associated with mental health issues, many employees may have reservations about the EAP or even fears that their employer will be tracking usage and how that might affect their career. The onus is on employers to ensure employees understand that EAPs disclosing information about an employee’s participation is against federal law and their privacy is always protected.
To help appease any employee confidentiality concerns, it’s important for communications to be clear and explicit about any personal information that is collected and how EAP services are administered.
The Ultimate Employee Benefit: Peace of Mind
The overarching goal of any good Employee Assistance Program is to offer employees peace of mind. When they start to prioritize their personal health and well-being, they can live more balanced and fulfilling lives. This means greater employee engagement, retention, and productivity and an all-around better place to work.