Have you ever had a time in your life when you didn’t know where to turn? You knew that you needed help or where stuck in a way that you just couldn’t seem to find the right direction? This can happen to anyone. There can be any number of causes for this dilemma: relationship issues, health issues, trouble with your boss or colleagues, substance abuse, or legal issues. Most large employers provide a service to their employees called an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), where the employee or their family members can get help on these or really almost any type of issue.
EAPs have been around since the early 1970s. At that time, they were started to help address a growing issue of substance abuse, specifically alcoholism. Over time, the topics for which they provide support has expanded significantly. EAP professionals are experts in human behavior and mental health.
What motivates an employer to offer an EAP? Fundamentally, EAPs benefit employers by helping employees and their family members deal with personal difficulties. In doing so, this helps employees stay productive and functioning in the workplace. While EAP utilization rates are low (5-7% nationally), it is a service that most employers consider an essential approach to supporting employee wellbeing. Additionally, mental health issues can be costly to employers in terms of health care costs. Research from EASNA, an EAP professional association, shows that “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 work team relations.”
From the employee’s viewpoint, the EAP can be a lifesaver. Imagine for a moment that you are in the midst of what feels like (or actually is) a life crisis. You don’t know where to start to get help. The EAP can help by evaluating the situation, identifying the types of resources that can be helpful to address the problem, and to provide references to those resources.
Everyone benefits since EAPs provide piece of mind for both the employer and the employee.