Stress is a part of everyday life for many employees. Personal, professional, and financial pressures all mount up, and research shows that 84% of Americans report feeling stressed weekly. To help alleviate stress in the workplace, it’s a good idea to implement an Employee Assistance Program. Benefits include improved engagement, boosted team morale, and a lower staff turnover.
Having an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in place is a growing trend among American companies and organizations. According to Statista, 79% of American organizations provide EAPs for their staff. Not only is it a great way to demonstrate that you value your employees’ wellbeing, but it also makes sound economic sense — happier, healthier staff are more productive and take less time off.
But, exactly what is an Employee Assistance Program and how does it work?
What is an Employee Assistance Program?
An Employee Assistance Program, often abbreviated to EAP, is a voluntary program where staff can seek free and confidential assessments, counseling, and follow-up services for various personal and work-related problems that affect their mental and emotional well-being.
The main EAP advantage lies in helping employees handle issues that would otherwise impact their work in terms of general wellness, concentration, productivity, and overall performance. Some EAP program benefits even extend to family members outside of the workplace.
What is an EAP Benefit?
Examples of EAP benefits include support and counseling for an array of employee concerns, such as:
- Mental health issues – Including stress, anxiety, depression, and grief.
- Behavioral health issues – Including alcohol or substance abuse, gambling addiction, and eating disorders.
- Workplace conflicts – Including bullying, harassment, performance problems, change management, and work-life balance issues.
- Career management – Including professional development plans, help with career changes, and managing relationships with co-workers.
- Family issues – Including divorce, separation, physical or emotional abuse, midlife crisis, etc.
- Health and fitness issues – Including everything from fitness and nutrition plans to help with diseases like diabetes and hypertension.
- Legal concerns – Including marriage counseling, child custody issues, etc.
- Financial issues – Including budgeting, bankruptcy, loan management, debt repayments, setting up emergency funds, etc.
- Caregiving – Employees tasked with the additional challenge of caring for an ill or elderly loved one can get help locating daycare services, nursing homes, etc.
How Do Employee Assistance Programs Work?
It’s common practice for companies to provide employees with the number of an EAP line they can call to speak to a referral agent when they need support or assistance. The referral agent may be another employee within the company (someone from the medical or health and safety team, for example) or someone outside the company like a union rep or EAP specialist. In either instance, the referral agent must be familiar with the relevant company protocols and any available resources. Any calls to the EAP line remain strictly confidential. Companies will never receive insights about when and how employees or their families use the program.
The initial conversation helps employees assess their issues so the right resources, therapist, or service can be recommended. Most organizations limit the benefits of EAP offerings to a stipulated number of counseling or referral sessions available at zero cost. This means that even the best examples of employee assistance programs are not long-term solutions. However, they do help steer employees in the right direction before they encounter more significant issues or burnout. The primary goals are to:
- Help employees better understand the issues that affect them.
- Find appropriate solutions and develop plans to solve or tackle those issues.
Counseling services are not mandatory and may not be required for every employee who utilizes the EAP line. Referrals depend on the severity of the issue, employee preference, and their ability to pay for services that the company doesn’t cover. Referral networks usually comprise a collection of qualified professionals and outside organizations, including:
- Financial advisors
- Legal firms
- Healthcare professionals
- Childcare and elderly care specialists
- Fitness and nutrition experts
It’s essential that organizations stipulate precisely what and who is covered by their EAP. The best way to do this is by creating an EAP handbook or PDF document which uses clear language and provides straightforward explanations and instructions. You should include the following sections:
- What is the employee assistance program? – A short introduction explaining the purpose of the program.
- EAP program benefits – A list of available services and resources.
- EAP eligibility – A breakdown of who is eligible for the program in addition to the individual employee (spouses, partners, children, dependents, etc.).
- Costs – How many free sessions are included, and additional charges going forward (if known).
- Contact information – The name of the referral agent and the number for the EAP line.
- Confidentiality statement – Reinforcing confidentiality rules increases the chance of participation.
What are the Benefits of Offering an Employee Assistance Program?
With the support they need to identify, accept, and address issues early, employees get the help they need to tackle problems and reduce stress levels both at work and home. Employee Assistance Programs are meant to uncover problems and find solutions before they escalate to something more serious.
Dealing with stress triggers and having easy access to assistance through a workplace program makes staff feel supported and helps them become happier, healthier, and more in control of their lives. So while the benefits of EAP offerings from the employee perspective are clear, what does the employer gain?
EAP Program Benefits for Employers
While EAP advantages may appear one-sided initially, there are significant benefits for employers as well. It may take time to set up an EAP committee, decide on the model to follow, and create your EAP policy. However, once the process is complete and in motion, your company will start to see positive change relatively quickly.
- Increased productivity – Research shows EAPs can reduce sick leave by 33%, work-related accidents by 65%, workers’ compensation claims by 30%, lost time by 40%, grievances by 50%, and time spent on supervisor reprimands by 74%.
- Improved organizational culture – Boosted morale is good for everyone, and when teams are more focused and communicate effectively with fewer disputes, the internal organizational culture thrives.
- Retention and recruitment – Healthy and happy staff who feel supported are typically loyal to the company. Plus, showing you care about employee wellbeing sets you apart as an employer of choice, helping to attract even more top talent for your teams.
- Cost Savings – While it’s easy to assume an EAP is costly to set up and run, the return on investment is typically high. With all potential losses in time and productivity taken into account, it’s estimated that employers could reap back 8x what they invest into Employee Assistance Programs.
Offer Quality Employee Benefits with Eden Health
What is an employee assistance program without the knowledge, expertise, and experience you need to make it work? At Eden Health, we specialize in a collaborative approach that keep your workforce healthier and happier for longer. We believe the best way to improve your organizational culture and increase employee wellness, loyalty, and retention is by integrating premium healthcare into your employee benefits packages.
The importance of employee benefits can’t be understated. Whether you’re looking to kick start your EAP, build your referral network, or offer a higher level of healthcare to your teams, our team of experts is here to help. Contact us or request a demo today to learn more about our healthcare solutions for employers and how your organization can benefit from a partnership with Eden Health.