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Employee Assistance Program — a Smart Investment

What is an Employee Assistance Program? I get this question a lot from business owners in the community who have heard the term but aren’t exactly sure what it entails. I tell them that an Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) is a real asset for many organizations.

You’ve heard the saying “Happy employees make productive employees,“ right? An EAP Program is proof of this. A recent study (Global Business and Economic Round Table on Addictions and Mental Health) shows that on a daily basis, one in five employees is being negatively affected by a personal issue like addiction, grief, divorce, care-giving, stress, depression, etc. EAP Services are the first-line response to help employees and their families deal with personal problems that might adversely impact their work performance, health and well-being. 

Employee Assistance Programs are completely confidential for employees and their family members, and usually include short-term counseling to help address these life stressors. In a study done by HR Magazine, 44% of employees say they come to work at least once a quarter too stressed to be effective. Another study (The American Institute of Stress) shows that companies lose as much as $688 per employee annually due to unscheduled absenteeism . 

In some work environments, employees may be reluctant to seek help from their supervisors because they worry it will negatively affect the supervisor’s view of their job performance. That’s why EAP services are designed as a free resource that allows employees to talk to someone and address their problems without their boss or company knowing about it.

In a recent study (HR Magazine), 49% of employees admitted they lose an hour of productivity or more each day due to stress. To help address these issues, EAP Professionals can provide consulting and training to managers and supervisors that helps them identify warning signs in their employees. By providing these managers with the tools they need to identify these issues, a problem can be addressed early on, before their behavior begins to affect employees’ work. 

In times of grief and unexpected events, such as death, natural disasters, company accidents and other emergencies, an Employee Assistance Program can partner with a company to provide counseling and consulting. They can help the staff process and understand what has happened and help sort out their feelings and emotions, which can be unpredictable and powerful.

Right now, 90% of Fortune 500 Companies participate in an EAP (Public Health Reports), while only 9% of companies with fewer than 50 employees participate in an EAP (Bureau of Labor Statistics). When companies are asked why they don’t offer this program, most say it’s due mainly to the cost. But what they overlook is the return they get from better employee productivity, less absenteeism, reduced workplace accidents, reduced employee turnover and related replacement costs. They also see reduced healthcare costs and more efficient use of healthcare through early identification, care management and recovery efforts. This makes EAP Programs a smart and profitable investment for most organizations. 

EAP services also leverage the value of the organization’s investment in their workforce. A program like EAP can help by improving employee engagement, strengthening employees’ and dependents’ skills for successfully responding to life’s challenges, offering employees short-term problem resolution services, or referring employees and dependents to mental health treatment services. This develops employee and manager competencies in managing workplace stress and improving work team performance. 

A proactive Employee Assistance Program can enhance an organization’s strengths and help it complete its mission. An EAP Program can help you build healthy, happy and productive employees — and that’s always a smart investment.