No matter how many times we clarify that personal and professional lives are different, the repercussions of both do collide at some point or the other. The incidents of both affect attitudes and productivity equally. This requires a system that can somehow navigate personal stress and challenges in a way that it does not affect the professional environment and also helps the employee navigate through life as a whole. One such solution is the Employee Assistance Program or EAP.

EAP offers a plethora of employee benefits. From wellness programs to make sure employees reap company benefits, to taking care of employee mental health and much more, an EAP is an important and essential corporate program.

In this article, we will be covering what is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), what are its benefits, how does it work, how can it be initiated, and much more.

What is EAP or Employee Assistance Program?

An EAP meaning simply states that it is a program that helps an employee navigate through life and resolve personal and professional issues. The best part about an EAP is that this does not entail any cost to the employee. Further employee benefits include confidentiality and direct or indirect addressal of issues that may be bothering them and hampering their work life. EAP is also an effective way of combating employee mental health issues.

Overall, EAP is a free offering by the organization for the employees’ mental, financial, and overall benefit.

How does an EAP or Employee Assistance Program Work?

The key aspect of any EAP counseling is observation. It is the observation of a caring manager that catches the stress of a subordinate and brings it to the notice of the organization so that the latter can be a part of an Employee Assistance Program. There can be many reasons for an employee’s stress, and all or none may be related to work. They may also be related to his finances, discord at home, or simply some other issues which he or she may not be otherwise comfortable discussing.

When this is brought to the organization’s notice, the relevant department makes sure that the EAP counseling helps the employee out. However, it is to be noted that the EAP is an intermittent solution and not a permanent one. If the problem is a serious one, an employee can be asked to connect with better and more professional authorities. For instance, while EAP can deal with advice on matters of mental stress, it is not equipped to provide full-fledged mental health counselling, unless the organization brings in professional mental health counselors. There is a difference between being a good listener and advisor, and being a professional therapist. The two should not be confused.

Further, an important part of the EAP program is communication. The employee benefits should be stressed upon at specific intervals and they should know that this service is available to them at no extra cost. EAP support should come in addition to the grievance services provided by the HR department. Another factor that should be stressed upon is confidentiality.

What are the Types of EAP Services That are Usually Provided?

There are various dimensions of wellness that an EAP should address. Some of them are:

Grief Assistance

Is the employee suffering from the passing away of a near and dear one? That loved one may either be a co-worker or a family person, or even a friend. Also, a loss may not necessarily mean death. Whatever may be the situation, EAP should help the employee handle the grief.

Mental Health Issues

This is the most important aspect. Every organization should take care of its employees’ mental health. That can be done via an EAP. However, make sure that the organization hires professional therapists or mental health counselors for the same.

Family Advice

Many times, an employee may be suffering from familial issues at home, which may be affecting work. EAP may help the person cope with the situation better.

Financial Advice

While earning is the first step, money management and saving is the next. Many fail in the second step and thus suffer the subsequent stress submerged in credits and bills. EAP program can counsel in financial matters and help sort the mess therein.

Workplace Conflicts

Sometimes, the best of people cannot gel well with their colleagues or even seniors. It may be because of conflicting personalities or due to an odd-one-out behavior of the said employee. An EPA program can guide a person on how to create the best situation out of the existing personality conflicts.

Health Issues

If an employee suffers from a certain health issue or a disability which is limiting his or her workability and productivity, adequate counseling via an EAP can help him or her there.

The main aim of an employee assistance program is to create a healthy work environment where none of the toxicity on unresolved and untreated employee issues remains. You can only do this with a transparent policy that communicates well and keeps the conversations confidential. This ensures that the employees reap the maximum benefits.

How to Implement EAP?

While having knowledge of how to conceptualize, to create, and to communicate an EAP is essential, the actual effectiveness can only be gauged by its implementation. EAP can be implemented via various communication modes. However, in the current times of the pandemic, it is better to avoid the face to face mode and pick on the others. Here are a few ways in which EAP or Employee Assistance Program can be implemented.

Video Chat

With an array of applications available for video chatting, counsel and advice can be provided via those.

Text Chat

If the employee is not comfortable talking face to face and is more happy texting, chatting applications come in handy.

Tele Chat

Neither text nor video, the good old talking on the phone is also a great mode of implementing EAP.

Life Coaching

Assign a life coach to the employee. This life coach can identify the employee’s strengths and weaknesses and work towards honing the same.

Whatever may be the implementation mode, it should be important to keep records of the sessions and be aware of the previous session for the next one. Further, confidentiality is of utmost importance as the employee will only open up about the deepest of issues if they are absolutely certain that it won’t leak.

What is the ROI for EAP and Other Mental Health Programs?

In the year 2015, the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry at Moeller published some alarming figures. According to them, an estimated cost of US employers, due to depression, was a whopping $210.5 billion per annum. The reason for such huge costs was the fall in productivity, stress, and absenteeism that stemmed out of the grave mental health issue. EAP can bring about a positive impact and reduce this cost considerably, thus positively impacting the ROI or return of investment.

The process for this, theoretically, is this. Conduct a survey before the EAP. This survey should comprise questions that help the employer figure out how much time is being whiled away due to stress and other issues eating up employee productivity. Note that employees should not feel intimidated while providing this information or they would quote unrealistic and untrue figures. Once you have gathered this information, monetize it on the basis of employee salaries. This helps the organization gauge the loss it is incurring due to the lack of wellness programs.

EAPs cannot resolve issues overnight. But once you list the issues and work upon them, there is hope that you can reverse the losses. An investment in an EAP fetches long-term results that make sure that the company benefits from those.

What are EAP Benefits?

There are several EAP benefits. While it does wonders for employees in the form of a better work-life balance, planned finances, improved mental health, better productivity, and more, it entails numerous benefits to the employer as well.

Reduced Employee Turnover

An effectively implemented EAP reduces employee turnover rate and increases employee retention rate. It enforces loyalty within the employees who know that the organization cares for them and their overall well-being.

Reduced Absenteeism

An EAP should ensure that the employees love what they do. It should help them manage their stress in a way that they concentrate better on their work. This then reduces absenteeism, which is often a result of either disinterest or depression.

Savings on Health Claim

An employee suffering from mental health issues may also suffer from resultant physical health hazards. This would lead to more health claims. A good EPA improves employee health and ensures savings on health claims.

Improves Team Performance

When the employees individually perform well, they are terrific as a team.
Employee Assistance Program is a beneficial venture. You cannot measure its worth in figures but in the subsequent abstract advantage that it provides.

How to Start an EAP?

If yours is an organization that has been holding EAP sessions regularly, that’s a good thing. However, what if you have just studied the concept and want to start it? Here’s a handy guide that can help you.

EAP Step #1

Research on various EAP brands and models that are available, such as CIGNA, Ceridian, and more. Depending upon your budget and the size of your organization, check the features and choose one that fits the bill best. Also figure out whether you need managerial services, organizational services, individual services, all, or more. As far as mental health is concerned, having a mental disorders list also helps gauge what services would the organization require. Also, check the availability and hours of the EAP counselors. Analyze, criticize, and choose the service provider extremely carefully.

EAP Step #2

Create an EAP policy in writing. Documentation is extremely important and this is the first step towards implementing an EAP policy. This document is for the perusal of the employees and an introduction to the policy as well. Ensure that it is well-worded and the employees join after reading it. Stress on communication, no-cost feature, and confidentiality.

EAP Step #3

Handing out introductory documents is not the end of promoting your EAP. Ensure verbal communication via events and gatherings, whether one-on-one or offsite. If your organization has a periodic newsletter, including a segment on EAP is a good option.

EAP Step #4

Set up a mode of measuring the effectiveness of the EAP. While there is no accurate way of doing that, a good EAP should, over a reasonable period of time, start showing positive results. However, decide this reasonable period after due care and a discussion with the EPA provider and counselors. It also varies from employee to employee. While some may cope sooner, others may take time.

The capability and performance of EPA are subjective, but it is imperative to the success of an organization and overall workforce mental health.

Do You Need an EPA?

There are certain patterns that you should notice. If the scale of your organization is large and you notice an overall pattern of people taking a lot of days off or not performing up to their potential, an EPA can be the solution to fix that crisis. In any way, it is not a loss-making investment. An Employee Assistance Program increases employee loyalty and productivity, and in today’s fast-moving world, both are essential traits.

Does your organization have an EPA? How does that work? Do tell us and tag us @HarmonizeHQ