Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) Guide
Workplace related stress is on the rise in Australia. As per a mental health check-in survey conducted on 3,500 employees in Australia, one-third of the participants were found to be suffering from some form of mental illness. Among them, 36% had depression, 33% had anxiety and 31% were suffering from stress.
This contributes to various physical and mental health problems in employees and ultimately hurts organizations in terms of increased absenteeism and turnover, decreased productivity and return on investment.
To avoid these undesired outcomes, stress alleviation and management has become an important concern for employers. They need to undertake concrete measures quickly for stress eradication and for improving mental health and job performance of their workers.
In view of a huge number of employees suffering from the harmful effects of work-related stress, both employers and employees need to adopt solutions for stress alleviation and management. EAPs or employee assistance programs can prove to be useful solutions for stress management, control and eradication.
What is an Employee Assistance Program?
An employee assistance program (EAP) is a work-based intervention program which helps employees to identify and resolve personal and work-related problems that may negatively effect their mental and physical health and emotional wellbeing. EAP ensures that a workplace accords high importance and value to its employees’ wellbeing and promotes a culture where employees are aware that their wellbeing is crucial for personal as well as professional development.
Employee assistance programs are designed by expert psychologists to support and guide employees to overcome their problems by imparting them necessary skills and guidance. The program will ultimately help to improve and maintain their mental health, enhance their focus, performance and productivity at work and improve the quality of their personal and professional life.
- Immediate assistance
- Avoids escalation
- Alleviates and resolves personal issues
- Improves employees mental health and psychological wellbeing
- Creates a happy, healthy and fulfilling workplace culture
- Employer benefits
New EAP technology has been developed by university researchers over the past 10 years in the field of eHealth. This technology has made it more convenient for employees to seek support via multiple channels, from chat/email to messaging to phone or video call. As a result, online EAPs can be delivered in less than half the time and at a quarter of the cost incurred in face-to-face sessions.
EAP technology helps to identify larger numbers of employees who suffering from stress earlier, in order to provide critical support and skills training. Digital EAP increases employee confidentiality and maximises the accessibility of psychological support. All these benefits contribute to the higher utilisation of digital EAPs at 17% as compared to 4% utilisation of traditional EAPs.
Ongoing measurement allows employees to track their success and identify when stress levels drop below a desired level.
In traditional employee assistance programs, employees attend face-to-face counselling and/or coaching sessions with a licenced healthcare professional. In these sessions, the employee will be taught various skills and exercises which will help to address various health, personal and work related issues. Often traditional EAP is utilised after employees have experienced a significant degree of emotional stress.
In a traditional employee assistance program, an employee takes part in a limited number of counselling/wellness sessions which stretch over a certain time period. For in-person therapy, the employee has to travel to the place of a psychologist or wellness coach. At times, an employing organisation may conduct the employee assistance program at its workplace where psychologists associated with a particular EAP service provider will visit and provide counselling to its employees and teach them various stress alleviation skills and exercises.
Utilisation of EAP
Though the number of employers and employees utilizing employee assistance programs is rising, but it still has not reached the level where it can positively impact the mental health and psychological wellbeing of the majority of Australian workforce. A report on the EAP industry suggested that the usage rate of employee assistance programs in certain industries in Australia could be as low as 5% which is far from a satisfactory level. So more work needs to be done for increasing the adoption of employee assistance programs in various industries in Australia.
To ensure that more and more employees benefit from the utilization of employee assistance programs, employers, insurers, government and academics need to collectively work towards collaborative research into the effectiveness of employee wellbeing programs. Until this data is available then such programs will be ‘nice to have’ instead of core business processes.
These are some of the top tactics which can lead to better utilization of EAPs:
- While designing employee assistance programs, the EAP providers should take into consideration specific preferences and needs of employees in a given employing organisation.
- Employers should consider giving financial incentives to those employees of theirs which utilize employee assistance programs and derive benefit from them.
- They should encourage their senior leaders to provide support for these programs.
- Employing organisations should try to enhance EAP awareness and engagement among their employees by utilising proven communication tactics.
- Employers should measure the positive impact of employee assistance programs on their employees’ performance, absenteeism and their other business outcomes.
- Organisations should position their managers to be advocates of the employee assistance programs. So they can influence employees working under them to avail these programs.
- Employers should integrate EAPs across their organisational programs.
- Employing organisations should try to leverage the EAP as a resource for identifying organisational issues in their work environment and for resolving them.
Gaining knowledge about these various aspects of EAPs can help you choose the right employee assistance programs for your employing organization and employees and derive maximum benefits from their use in terms of maintaining mental health and wellbeing of your employees, enhanced productivity and employee retention, reduced absenteeism and turnover and increased ROI.