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How to Use Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
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Benefits Administration

How to Use Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

One-Minute Takeway

  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can provide support for mental health, traumatic life events, financial and legal advice, and other personal challenges
  • 41% of remote workers experience high stress compared to in-office employees.
  • An EAP is a benefit that offers various free, confidential programs to make employees’ lives easier.

Work-life balance is a challenge in the best of times. In this age of remote and hybrid work, the line between the two is blurrier than ever. While many people prefer to work from home, a WFH setup can contribute to stress. According to one report, 41% of remote workers experience high stress – nearly double the number of in-office employees (Ergonomic Trends).

To drive employee retention, managers need to watch for signs of stress and burnout. HR leaders should learn how to identify hints that workers need more support, either at work or in their personal lives. Receiving the right kind of help at the right time can be the reason an employee stays with your company.

Sometimes, the issues go beyond what happens at work. A manager can’t do everything – you’re not their therapist or their financial advisor, and you shouldn’t try to be. But you can connect them with the resources they need outside of your organization.

In a lot of cases, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are the answer. These programs can help workers with mental health, financial planning, stress management, relationships…you name it, they’ve probably got a specialist who can manage it. You can also find EAPs that help with childcare and eldercare, which can be especially important for WFH teams. In this article, we’ll explore some of the ways an Employee Assistance Program can help your team succeed.

What Is an Employee Assistance Program?

An EAP is a benefit that offers various free, confidential programs to make employees’ lives easier. This assistance often includes a phone helpline where employees can ask for specific referrals. They might also receive short-term counseling and schedule follow-up sessions with experts, like talk therapists or financial counselors. Some EAP providers also offer support by video, email, or online chat.

Employees typically choose for themselves when to use EAP services. In disciplinary or emergency situations, however, an employer can urge them to get help. HR managers should note that when EAPs offer employees direct counseling and treatment (rather than just referral services), they generally qualify as a medical benefit. In that case, their services might be subject to COBRA legislation (SHRM). The specifics may vary from one EAP to another, so make sure you understand your employees’ options.

What Are the Types of Employee Assistance Programs?

While EAPs primarily support employees, you can also find programs that offer services to their immediate family members. Employee assistance programs can help your team deal with a wide variety of challenges.

Mental Health Support

EAPs were initially created as a workplace response to employees with alcohol or substance addictions. Over time, EAPs have expanded to help people with a much wider variety of needs. Today, an EAP might also be able to help with stress, anxiety, and severe mental health issues like PTSD or major depression.

Traumatic Life Events

EAPs can also support employees during times of extreme stress. If someone on your team is injured, gets a life-changing diagnosis, or is grieving the loss of a family member, they might benefit from these services. In many situations, employees need help but would prefer not to talk about what they’re going through at work. Confidential counseling empowers them to get the help they need without sharing private information.

Financial, Legal, or Family Advice

Employee Assistance Programs aren’t just for crisis situations. They can also provide advice and practical support for:

  • Financial planning
  • Legal problems
  • Childcare
  • Eldercare
  • Personal relationships
  • Work relationships
  • Adopting a child
  • Military families
  • Quitting smoking
  • Stress
  • Physical health and wellness
  • General employee well-being

The Advantages of Employee Assistance Programs

EAPs give workers free, confidential help that they may have difficulty finding anywhere else. The confidentiality can be particularly attractive. Who wants to advertise their personal problems at work? It’s much easier and safer to call a 24/7 helpline and work through personal problems in private.

EAPs are a win/win. Data shows that these programs reduce absenteeism by almost 70% (Human Resources Director). As a result, they can save companies $2,000-$3,500 per employee each year (Forbes) – money you’d otherwise lose while they’re away from work.

These numbers are great for your business goals, and easy to share with the C-Suite. But the news gets better. Lower absenteeism means higher employee engagement – and it’s no secret that engagement drives retention. Over time, this benefit can have a major impact on your company’s success.

If a Tree Falls in the Forest…

Does anyone hear it? The answer is no, they don’t. SHRM found the same is true for EAPs: typical utilization averages fall below 10%, and the number one driver of low usage is lack of awareness. If your company invests in an EAP benefit, talk to your broker about how to promote it. If your employees know help is available, you might just see an increase in engagement.

How Paycor Can Help

With 30+ years of experience in HR, Paycor’s experts understand benefits administration from the inside out. Paycor’s HR Support Center is a comprehensive HR resource that provides organizations access to employee handbook templates, sample job descriptions, useful checklists, compliance alerts and more. Plus, dedicated support from an HR expert is always available with HR Support Center On-Demand.