How Employee Assistance Programs Can Help

Employee assistance programs are worksite-based programs and resources designed to benefit both employers and employees. EAPs address productivity issues — job performance can be affected when employees have personal concerns. By squarely dealing with the prevention, identification and resolution of issues, EAPs can put workers’ health at center stage for the good of both the employee and the employer.

That’s why taking a proactive stance will help employees identify and resolve personal issues before they can have serious medical, family and workplace consequences. EAPs make financial and business sense: programs can decrease absenteeism by reducing accidents and therefore translating to fewer workers’ compensation claims. This can mean retaining employees who have fewer labor disputes and significantly reduced medical costs through early identification and treatment of mental health and substance abuse issues.

Services and referrals provided to employees and family members via EAPs target mental health, drug and alcohol use/abuse, divorce and parenting, caregiving, financial planning, wellness and health promotion, smoking cessation, and weight reduction, and provide such work-related support as career counseling.

Some EAPs are expanding to include addressing workplace violence and safety and emergency preparedness; guidance on dealing with such difficult situations as mergers, layoffs or employees dying on the job; absence management; helping returning veterans; and even disease management and preventive health.

EAP services have particular interest among young employees who worry less about stigma when asking for help on mental health or substance abuse; they tend to see these services as resources they need to achieve success in their jobs or to resolve relationship issues.

EAPs are especially attractive to millennials

The Office of Disability Employment Policy of the U.S. Department of Labor in 2007 met with employer and employee assistance professionals to address the mental health needs of younger workers through EAPs. That such employees had less reticence than older co-workers became apparent: They actively sought information on mental health, pursuing solutions. So employers should take heed that such policies help retain millennials in the workforce.

Many HR professionals are developing innovative and content-rich messages in multiple media formats. Increased use of technology makes EAP services more accessible to millennials — such as using interactive online assessments of drug and alcohol use, stress levels and depression. Such techniques teach managers to assess troubling employee situations, including deciding when to refer to EAPs, contact human resources, call the police or make physician referrals. Also useful are webinars and podcasts on various subjects, text messaging to facilitate communication among subscribed members, and nonclinical support, such as coaching. The point is that EAPs are great ways to recruit and retain millennials in particular.

Telework and flexible schedules signal that management is concerned with work-life programs, which also is important in encouraging young workers. The wide range of issues that EAPs address will be even more effective in assisting the new generation to become productive workers.