Employee Assistance Program (EAP): An Employer’s Guide

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We all have life events that distract us from work – a divorce, an ailing family member, the passing of a friend. We can’t expect anyone to be at their best at such times. So, as an employer what can you reasonably expect? How do you support the person to take care of themselves emotionally while also ensure they can continue work (or as much of it as they are able to)? This is where an EAP is needed.

This article can be your guide to making sure you are providing the best possible support to your employees. From the origins of EAPs to who they help, what they provide, and how they can help support your employees, this article has got you covered.

What is an EAP?

It is a pre-emptive panacea that can help you mitigate the risks of having an employee’s personal or work-related problems affect their mental health and, by extension, their job performance. An EAP does not consist of just counseling services. The program can also assist you with policy development, employee education, and supervisor training.

Moreover, an EAP works well in taking the pressure off supervisors and managers like you, who may feel responsible when employees’ personal problems affect job performance. After all, it can help you offer your colleagues access to treatment as a means to improve their personal lives. Of course, such initiatives can only work well if you and your company genuinely support a culture of good mental health for your employees.

Who needs an EAP?

Workplace trauma can affect anyone. Even the best employers cannot guarantee that employees will never be exposed to trauma in their workplace.

An amalgamation of personal and work-related difficulties may compel some of our colleagues to seek psychological support at work. As an employer, you should aim to build a collaborative and trusting culture in which your colleagues feel safe to work in. Thankfully, that’s what an EAP can help with!

An EAP can aid employees with any of the following conditions:

  • A mental health condition, such as depression or chronic pressure;
  • Workplace trauma, such as bullying or assault;
  • A physical health condition that is or isn’t tied to the work environment

Why is it important?

Think of an EAP as a risk-management strategy instead of an employee benefit. It is a necessary means of precaution for unexpected times of crisis.

Let’s say you have an employee who’s recently diagnosed with diabetes, lower-back pain, or depression. In this case, the collective goal should be early intervention, before a condition becomes debilitating and requires leave from work. This is where an EAP is needed.

Other benefits of a well-executed EAP – paired with positive company culture – includes:

  • Increased employee productivity and morale;
  • Reduced absenteeism and sick leave; and
  • Greater employee retention.

All in all, an EAP offers you an alternative to firing, thereby saving the costs of recruiting, rehiring, and retraining.

What are the different types of EAP?

You can consider a number of options when establishing an EAP; from keeping it entirely in-house to outsourcing every aspect of service. These are the most common delivery models:

management sponsored EAP, talenox
EAP contract, talenox
consortia, consortia EAP, talenox

What can I do to ensure that my EAP is effective?

People handle and process trauma differently. That’s why it is crucial that you support affected employees through a number of avenues. This can include:

  • Setting up peer support programs,
  • Collaborating with external resources, and
  • Ensuring that employees have easy and judgement-free access to mental health support.

In some cases, short-term counseling and support may be all that an employee needs. Generally, for longer-term counseling and support, an EAP offers a referral to another agency or provider.

Common mistakes to avoid during implementation

Leaving employees unaware of EAP benefits

While you may offer an EAP as part of your employee benefits package, these services could go unused. Perhaps employees are unaware of the benefits or are uncertain about what the EAP provides; some may even feel that there’s a stigma around using these services. These barriers can hinder workers from getting the help they need.

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What you can do is routinely remind employees that these benefits are available to them. In addition, it would be helpful to help employees under the EAP ensure that their ongoing participation/treatment remains confidential.

Prying into employees’ personal lives through EAPs

As a leader, it is good to show care and empathy. However, do not get carried away and try to take on the role of an employee’s personal confidante. Your job as a leader is not to be the office shrink. Hence, it’s best not to ask a bunch of questions about your employee’s problems. As the person with more power in the relationship, the employee may feel pressured to tell you more than what they’re comfortable with.

A good leader has the ability to read and understand other people’s needs and concerns, while still keeping everyone focused on the major task at hand: accomplishing work.

Immediately advocating a course of action

When you speak to an employee about their current struggles, try to lend a listening ear instead of immediately advocating for EAP. Your employee may just want a listening ear about the difficulties of caring for a sick relative or a chance to talk about why a divorce has affected their focus at work.

If you immediately suggest they take a leave of absence or adjust their schedule, they may feel dismissed. Instead, try to ask what both of you can do together to address the issue of performance during the difficult period. Your employee may have an idea for a temporary arrangement, e.g. some time off, a more flexible schedule for a few weeks, or sharing a project with another teammate.

Treating EAPs as a default fallback

However, EAPs should be a carefully considered option for employees. It should not a fallback solution. The last thing a business should do is use EAPs or workplace counseling as a stopgap or a quick fix to resolve workplace tension.

 Take for instance Emi Nietfeld’s experience with Google’s EAP management in 2018, when she was still under the tech giant’s employment. Several months of her direct supervisor touching her inappriopriately had compelled Emi to submit a complaint to HR. Whenever she asked for a timeline on ongoing the investigation, Google would routinely offer her the following EAP options: free counseling, work from home, or medical leave. During that period, Google allowed her harasser to to continue sitting next to her and having one-on-one meetings with her. This is essentially a misuse of EAPs that tolerates misbehaving colleagues and directs the affected employees to counseling.

In such cases, you want to avoid having your EAP serve as a loophole that helps any harasser circumvent accountability. You do not want to communicate to the affected employee that he or she is the problem via your EAP as well.

We believe empathy is key at Talenox

At Talenox, we’ve maintained a remote working culture (way before Covid-19), an unlimited annual leave policy, and flexible working hours from initial years! We believe our emphasis on empathy to both colleagues and customers is the reason why Talenox is reviewed as an easy-to-use, compliant payroll management product that comes with great customer support.

Do you relate to our journey and would like to be part of our team to grow together? If the answer is “yes”, feel free to reach out to us over at AngelList and Wantedly. We are constantly looking for empathetic team players and would love to speak to more talents along the journey!

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