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How Employee Assistance Programs Benefit Businesses

How Employee Assistance Programs Benefit Businesses

When employees are set up for success, companies often enjoy the benefits. Happy, motivated employees are more likely to be more productive. Unfortunately, there are several factors outside of the workplace that have a direct impact on the overall wellbeing of your employees.

An Employee assistance program (EAP) is one tool employers can use to help stressed-out employees and improve both morale and work performance. Let’s break down what an EAP does, how it benefits both employers and employees, and how your company can get the most out of its program.

What Is An Employee Assistance Program?

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) defines an EAP as “a work-based intervention program designed to assist employees in resolving personal problems that may be adversely affecting the employee's performance.” These intervention programs are designed to give employees support for private matters until they can find a more permanent solution. An ideal EAP should meet the criteria listed below:

  • Confidential – Given the personal nature of employees’ issues, EAPs should allow employees to privately and anonymously seek support.
  • Accessible – Services provided by an EAP should be accessible online and easy for employees to contact during and outside of work hours.
  • Available – Services should be readily available to any employees and immediate family members who are eligible for the program.
  • Short-term – EAPs aren’t meant to be permanent sources of aid. The services an EAP provides are designed to give employees access to key services and short-term help until they can find a good, long-term solution for them.

The exact form of support can differ greatly from program to program, but an average EAP is typically designed to assist employees in a variety of ways. While the services may differ, the goal is the same – to give employees the support they need to address factors that impact their mental and emotional health.

Examples Of Employee Assistance Programs

EAPs vary greatly depending on which services they include. The average EAP provides a wide range of services aimed to provide critical support for your workforce, but the exact selection can vary from program to program. However, it’s common for EAPs to address a number of personal issues, including the following concerns:

  • Relationship challenges
  • Grief over loss of a loved one
  • Financial or legal problems
  • Stress management
  • Mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD
  • Substance abuse
  • Workplace or domestic violence
  • Crisis management

While EAPs were traditionally developed to support these personal issues, modern programs have expanded to include further services. Employers have found that there are a number of additional stressors that impact work-life balance and future plans. EAPs can also include the following forms of support:

  • Child care
  • Elder care
  • Adoption specialists
  • Retirement planning
  • Living wills
  • Pet care
  • Academic and tutor resources
  • Personal and professional development

Benefits Of Employee Assistance Programs

More stress means more problems for both employees and employers. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce Report, a whopping 57% of U.S. employees reported feeling stress on a daily basis. By alleviating that stress, EAPs can help businesses enjoy the following benefits:

  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Increased productivity
  • Better morale
  • Improved retention

Reduced absenteeism

Outside stressors can often lead to employees taking additional sick days or simply calling off to attend to personal issues. EAPs give employees the means to alleviate those stresses. A study by Federal Occupational Health (FOH) found that companies that offer EAPs saw a 69.2% decrease in absenteeism by giving employees access to various means of personal support.

Increased productivity

Just because employees are at work doesn’t mean that they’re productive. Behavioral health concerns like stress, anxiety, or depression directly impact how engaged employees are at work. That same FOH study found that employees with access to assistance programs were 22.8% less checked out while on the job and more invested in their work.

Better morale

Another benefit the FOH found was that EAPs can improve employees’ sense of overall wellbeing. Studies found that EAPs increased users’ life satisfaction by 24.2% by addressing stressors that caused personal distress. In turn, employee morale is substantially better when employees take advantage of EAP services.

Improved retention

Simply put, stress makes good employees leave. EAPs show employees that your business cares about their wellbeing, making them less likely to suffer burnout or look for a fresh start somewhere else.

Assistance programs can also entice talent to join your business. According to SHRM, 76% of employees “consider mental health benefits to be a critical factor when evaluating new jobs.” An EAP is a clear sign that your business takes employees’ mental health seriously.

How To Maximize The Value Of Your Employee Assistance Program

Offering an EAP is one step. Getting employees to use it is another. National studies find that EAP utilization averages just under 10%, but not because the programs are ineffective. SHRM reports that there are a couple of key reasons for the low usage rate:

  • Privacy concerns – Employees either feel uncomfortable sharing personal issue or are afraid that employers will gain access to this personal health information.
  • Lack of promotion – Companies either don’t promote these programs enough or employees aren’t aware of how they can access these services.

Even with low participation numbers, employers who offered an EAP typically enjoyed an ROI of at least $3 for every $1 spent according to the 2020 Workplace Outcome Suite. Still, there are ways that businesses can encourage better EAP participation and receive even more value from their programs.

Regularly promote EAP awareness

It’s not uncommon for employees to only hear about their EAP once during the onboarding process or when the program was added as a benefit. It’s best to give employees regular reminders about your EAP and how to access these services. These reminders can come in multiple forms – during annual meetings, email updates, etc. Regardless of how you send the message, multiple reminders will only increase the odds employees will utilize these services.

Stress privacy

It’s not always easy for individuals to admit they need help. With that being said, it’s essential to communicate that employees can privately access services online or on the phone around the clock.

In addition, employees should understand that their interactions with these services are completely private and are not shared with others within the company, including the employer. By stressing the private nature of an EAP, employees are more likely to explore these services on their own terms.

Work with HR advocates

It’s not always easy to manage the various aspects of benefits administration by yourself. Fortunately, you don’t have to promote and manage your EAP alone. The right EAP provider can help you maximize the effectiveness of your program.

For example, GMS partners with businesses to offer critical assistance and educate employees about how to best utilize these services. We work with employers to help them offer a quality benefits package without having to spend the time to administer these benefits by themselves, including group health insurance, assistance programs, and more.

Ready to enhance your employee benefits package? Contact us now about how GMS can help you save time and money through expert benefits administration.

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