Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are a valuable yet underutilized benefit offered by most employers.
Whether working from home or in the workplace, many employees are feeling stress in their lives. Those who were previously coping well may now be struggling with the added challenges of the pandemic or the killing of George Floyd and race-related stressors. Now is an important time for human resources departments to promote their employee assistance programs or consider adding the benefit.
What is an EAP?
An EAP offers a variety of services to employees and their immediate family members, including counseling, wellness advice, and financial and legal consultations. These services are provided by third-party professionals and are available at no cost to the employee. Enrollment costs are covered by the employer and typically are based on the size of the workforce (e.g., per-employee fee).
Providing an EAP is a cost-effective way for employers and employees to ensure personal and professional issues don’t affect employee performance.
Most EAPs offer help with issues such as:
- Stress, grief, depression, or other family problems
- Caring for children or aging parents
- Alcohol or substance abuse
- Violence, emotional or physical trauma, or other emergency situations
- Financial and legal concerns
- Work conflicts
Addressing employee concerns
One of the biggest concerns employees have about using an EAP is confidentiality. It’s important to note that employee assistance programs are confidential, and the employer is not notified when an employee accesses their benefits. Regardless, some employees still fear that their employer will find out something the employee doesn’t want them to know. Reiterating the confidential nature of EAPs and the option for telephone and virtual consulting/counseling may help to alleviate some fear.
There is also a stigma surrounding mental health and asking for help. Showing how common mental health issues are may aid in alleviating some of that stigma. There are many opportunities to do this virtually. Enlisting a local celebrity or public figure to speak on the topic, regularly writing or sharing articles related to wellness, and hosting informational webinars in which participants can remain anonymous are all opportunities to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.
Getting the word out
An employer benefits from healthy, happy employees. It’s important to ensure that employees are aware of all the tools available to them to achieve or maintain their wellness. While a flyer at new hire orientation is great, employers may consider these additional opportunities to market their EAP:
- Include an EAP section in the employee newsletter
- Post flyers in breakrooms or other high-traffic areas
- Highlight the wide range of services offered
- Create a resource area on the company intranet or public webpage
- Provide employees with a magnet or business card with EAP contact information
- Coach supervisors on how to refer an employee to the EAP
- Remind employees that their privacy is protected
Some EAP providers offer workplace training on various topics related to the services offered. Hosting sessions and encouraging employee attendance can help promote service offerings and maximize employee utilization.
Sarah James is a communications specialist at TASB HR Services. Send Sarah an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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