Employee assistance programs (or EAPs) are services that give employers a confidential way to help their staff with any work-related or personal issues that might affect their physical or mental health, performance, or general wellbeing. An EAP usually includes an assessment to see what’s causing the employee to suffer, and then some short-term counseling.
Employee assistance programs have become more common in recent years to combat steadily rising issues with mental health and stress in the workplace. Employees often say that they feel the need to give everything they have to their jobs, their time and efforts are dedicated wholly to work which leaves them with no free time and a suffering personal life.
Research has shown that an effective EAP can both prevent and address problems that employees have, and can help with a vast array of issues like childcare, relationships, legal issues, financial issues, and more.
With mental health being less of a taboo topic nowadays, employers can use EAPs to prioritize it in the workplace for great results. Aiding the mental health of employees (by any method, including an employee assistance program) can:
- Help employees feel cared for, valued, and supported by their employer
- Make employees feel happier and healthier
- Help employees be more productive, efficient, and successful
With all that being said, creating an effective employee assistance program can be tricky. Here are some tips on how to do it.
1. Absolute confidentiality
Arguably the most important part of an EAP is making sure that it is 100% confidential. The issues that are serious enough to affect employees won’t be trivial, so ensuring confidentiality means that employees can feel safe and confident enough to actually make use of the program.
Employee assistance programs must be accessible to employees. If the programs’ counselors or healthcare providers can be visited physically, they shouldn’t be far from the workplace and should cater to all employees regardless of things like their level of ability, background, race, sexual orientation or religion.
The EAP should also be accessible remotely for when people are working from home or unable to access the help they need in person.
3. Proactive action should be taken, but without making it a big deal
The issues affecting employees are sensitive, and even with mental health being less taboo, it can still be touchy. Employers should be proactive and offer help if they believe someone needs it, but without making the whole thing seem like a big deal.
Offering help should be casual and feel comfortable, not like it’s a serious intervention (even when it is!).
It also really helps to integrate employee assistance programs into everyday life, like giving reminders at weekly meetings or in newsletters.
EAPs benefit employees greatly and make working with a company feel a lot more safe and rewarding. Effective EAPs don’t happen overnight though – they can only happen with hard work, dedication, thought, and consideration. They can set employees up to work to the best of their ability. Implementing one might mean that lives aren’t just improved, but possibly even saved.