Employee Assistance Programs Don’t Just Benefit Employees. Here’s Why They’re Good for Employers Too
As an emerging or growing organization, you may be asking yourself why you need to offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). You may think an EAP is nothing more than an added business expense. And no small business needs additional expenses!
All organizations must ensure they’re spending their limited financial resources strategically. This is why I encourage even the smallest employers to consider the benefit that EAP programs can have on not just their employees’ overall well-being but the well-being of their company. According to the Employee Assistance Trade Association, employees who use EAPs often experience positive changes in their work performance, such as having fewer days late or absent, higher levels of work productivity and improved team relations.
What is an employee assistance program?
In short, an EAP is an employer-paid service that provides confidential counseling to eligible employees and their family members, 24 hours a day. EAP programs can provide on-demand access to professional counselors in the areas of:
- Stress management
- Marital and family concerns
- Child and elder care referrals
- Alcohol and drug problems
- Legal and financial problems
- Grief and traumatic events
- 24-hour emergency help
- And much more
While EAPs are great for helping your staff stay mentally and physically healthy, the far-reaching benefits also extend to the business as a whole. Here are two important ways this is true:
Business impact #1: employee productivity
Studies have shown that when employees are overwhelmed by personal problems, they are unable to perform at their highest level. This may seem like common sense to anybody who has ever had to deal with a personal issue while trying to power through the work day. By giving employees access to professional resources to help cope with life’s inevitable ups and downs, you are helping them be better equipped to effectively manage both their personal lives and their work responsibilities.
By working to solve underlying issues that can have a negative impact on job performance, EAPs have a significant effect on what could potentially be very damaging (and expensive) work-related problems. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, EAPs have been shown to contribute to:
- Decreased absenteeism
- Reduced accidents and fewer workers’ compensation claims
- Greater employee retention
- Fewer labor disputes
- Significantly reduced medical costs (arising from early identification and treatment of individual mental health and substance use issues).
Business impact #2: contributing to the company culture
There is a lot of information available about the role that wellness plays in creating an effective company culture. Employers who show they care about their employees’ health and happiness, and take steps to help their employees be as healthy and happy as possible, have an easier time attracting and retaining top talent.
Emerging organizations typically don’t have an on-site HR person or department. Even within established organizations, the HR department and leadership teams are not equipped with the skills and credentials to assistant an employee with personal issues. An EAP can help bridge this gap and set the stage for a company culture of wellness.
Additionally, just by providing your employees with access to an EAP, you are doing something concrete to show them that you care about them and want them to succeed, both personally and professionally. If you want a workplace culture where your employees feel valued, this is a great step!
EAP effectiveness: a personal example
I can recall a time, early in my management career, when one of my employees experienced a sudden and traumatic death in his immediate family. I wanted to provide as much support and comfort as I could to this employee since we were a small group that had worked together for many years. I would find myself constantly consoling this employee, which inhibited my ability to focus entirely on the needs of the business.
Although my intentions were noble, I wasn't equipped to address concerns of this magnitude. As a result, I wasn’t fulfilling the requirements of my leadership role and the employee wasn’t getting the support he needed. It wasn’t until I provided him with our company’s EAP information that he was able to take advantage of professional, qualified help. This was a major turning point for the both me as a leader and the employee’s ability to manage the personal issues that were affecting his job.
Additionally, after taking advantage of the EAP, the employee’s absences and tardiness also decreased and he re-engaged with his job. Our performance and productivity improved, which was a win/win for the organization.
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