Do you know the extent of what an EAP can do for your employees – and, ultimately, your business?
As a business leader, you’re probably aware that an employee assistance program (EAP) helps employees with personal problems. They typically offer support to employees dealing with issues ranging from marriage and family challenges to emotional problems, such as stress, anxiety and substance abuse. Some EAPs also offer legal and financial assistance.
But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to helping employees handle crises, today’s EAPs promote work-life balance by offering a comprehensive suite of services designed to support employees and their families, and help them navigate life’s milestones.
The goal is to give employees peace of mind in their personal lives, so they can focus fully at work and achieve work-life balance. When your employees are happier and more fulfilled, they’re usually more productive in their jobs. It’s a win for everybody – your employees, your business and your customers.
Here are seven lesser-known ways an EAP can help make that happen:
1. Getting settled in a new town
Moving to a new area for work is exciting, but relocating can be stressful for busy, hard-working employees. An EAP specialist can research the area, and provide relocated staff with a list of vendors and resources, including child care, nearby grocery stores and even the best veterinarian for their family pet. This means more time for your employees to get comfortable in their new hometown.
2. Recovering from identity theft
Having your identity stolen, and dealing with the aftermath, is a time-consuming and often-confusing nightmare. EAP specialists can walk your employees through the steps needed to recover, and provide them with contact information for credit monitoring and filing an identity theft report. Many EAPs also offer guidance on how to protect your family’s online security – including tips about managing your kids’ social media use.
3. Learning how to create a budget (and save)
Younger employees just entering the workforce can use an EAP to learn the basics of creating a budget, including how to spend less and save more, eating on a budget, and the basics of saving and investing. More seasoned employees can use an EAP for advice on creating a college savings fund for their kids, or saving up for a major house-remodeling project.
4. Finding support for parenting and caregiving
Caring for family is rewarding but can also be stressful, especially for “sandwich generation” employees taking care of their children and parents at the same time. These employees can use an EAP to sort through college choices for their children, navigate healthcare resources for local or out-of-state elderly parents, and learn strategies to manage their own stress and anxiety.
5. Coping with sudden loss
The unexpected death of a coworker can be devastating to members of a close-knit team, particularly if they’ve known each other for a long time. And that goes double when it’s a family member who passes suddenly.
Or, equally distressing, your company may be dealing with a large number of employees who were displaced by a natural disaster.
To help employees cope, organizations can enlist the aid of their EAP to provide counseling, either onsite or by phone, to help them with the grieving process. Providing extra support to employees is critical during difficult times like this, and can help your staff gradually regain their inspiration and productivity.
6. Crossing items off the to-do list
Some EAPs even provide concierge and convenience services. What if your employees could get help for everyday tasks, like researching vacation ideas or finding a local caterer or plumber? Think it might make life more convenient for them and help them breathe a little easier?
Imagine the busy, single dad working on a tight company deadline, who wants to surprise his parents with a 50th wedding anniversary cruise but doesn’t have time to narrow down the travel details himself. An EAP can do that and much more.
7. Making a smooth transition to retirement
Employees nearing the end of their careers can use an EAP to help make their transition to retirement a smooth one. EAPs can provide them with information about how to sign up and access Medicare, how to manage expenses, estate planning, and selecting retirement communities. Would a beach or mountain community better suit their budget and lifestyle?
Their EAP can also make referrals to legal and financial professionals specializing in retirement issues.
Encouraging employees to use their EAP
Unfortunately, while EAPs provide such a valuable service, they’re often underutilized. According to EAP services provider Chestnut Global Partners, in their 2017 Top Trends in EAP and Wellness Report, utilization rates for employee assistance programs were less than 7 percent.
Why are they so low? It could be because many employees just aren’t fully aware of what an EAP does. Or, maybe they’re reluctant to seek help because they think there is a cost involved – or they could be leery of seeking help through their employer.
If your company currently offers an EAP for employees, or is considering adding one in the future, here’s how you can help ensure your workforce makes the most of it.
- Promote and educate: Make sure employees know your company offers an EAP, how to access it, and when help is available (many operate 24/7, year-round). Include information about the EAP in their benefits package, and send out reminders throughout the year, including the EAP’s website address. Many EAPs have an extensive library of articles about employee work-life balance on their websites.
- Stress privacy: Communicate that using an EAP is always confidential, and that their personal information won’t be shared.
- Emphasize free services: Let employees know that the cost of most EAP services is covered by the company and available at no cost to them. Or, if an employee needs additional services or assistance beyond what’s offered to them for free (e.g., ongoing counseling sessions or legal advice), inform them of any discounts they may receive.
- Make it personal: Personally tell struggling employees about your EAP’s services when necessary. If an employee is going through a divorce and tells you she can’t focus on her work, give her the contact information for the EAP. Many EAPs offer referrals for attorneys and mediators, as well as counselors for help dealing with the emotional issues surrounding divorce. Be sure to have this discussion in private, though, and not in front of her team.
An EAP is a wise investment for businesses. These programs are relatively low cost, and they can be a valuable tool for helping your hardworking employees relieve some of their stress and get the guidance they need to have a healthy work-life balance as well as become more financially stable.
As a result, you’ll gain a more focused, engaged and productive workforce. And, by offering this benefit, you’ll be more attractive to job seekers looking for a company that values employee work-life balance.
If you have an EAP, encourage your employees to take full advantage of it. If your current benefits package doesn’t include an employee assistance program, consider consulting a professional employer organization (PEO) about how your company can obtain access to these and other valuable benefits.
To learn more about how providing your employees with resources to have a healthy work-life balance can positively impact your workforce and your business, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to employee benefits.