Employee assistance programs (EAPs) aim to make employees more productive by helping them manage their personal problems. Many EAPs offer services designed to reduce stress, address substance-abuse disorders and take control of issues that affect each employee's psychological health. Although starting an EAP is an excellent way to give employees access to much-needed resources, some programs fail because they do not offer services employees want and need, or they make it difficult for employees to access program-related services. Take the following steps to ensure your EAP helps as many employees as possible.
1. Ask employees what they need. Most organizations have a limited amount of money to spend on their EAPs, so they cannot offer every service requested by employees. However, you can and should ask employees what services would be most valuable to them. EAPs deal with a variety problems, many of which employees do not want to discuss with their colleagues or supervisors. Therefore, if you want honest feedback, you should ask employees to complete an anonymous survey rather than asking them for their input during a meeting or via email.
2. Emphasize prevention. Your EAP should include programs to help employees manage existing problems, but it is essential to offer preventive services as well. Helping employees reduce stress, avoid burnout and do a better job managing their workloads can prevent costly issues such as absenteeism, reduced productivity and work-related accidents. EAPs typically offer a variety of programs aimed at reducing stress, including on-site workplace massage services, yoga classes, and meditation sessions. Consider offering at least one of these services to ensure that employees have an opportunity to release stress before it causes them to miss work or experience a decline in performance.
3. Make sure managers promote the EAP in a positive way. Employees are not likely to take advantage of the EAP if their managers do not support the program. Before launching an EAP, meet with all department managers to make sure they understand the benefits of having an EAP. Encourage managers to show their support for the program by talking about it in a positive way and making referrals when appropriate. Instead of using EAP referrals as a punishment for poor performers, managers should use these referrals as an opportunity to show their support for employees.
4. Reassure employees that all information will be kept confidential. The only way anyone at your company should know that an employee has taken advantage of the EAP is if a manager or supervisor made an EAP referral as part of the performance-management process. If employees decide on their own to use EAP services, then the only people who will know are the employee and the service provider. To make employees more likely to use your EAP, let them know that you will not know what they discussed or even that they used one of your EAP services.
5. Give employees the freedom to use EAP services as needed. Employees cannot take advantage of everything an EAP has to offer if they never have time to use the program's services. If possible, let employees leave a little early or take longer lunch breaks on days when they have EAP-related appointments scheduled. If you do not give employees some scheduling flexibility, they will be unable to benefit from the EAP, and your company is likely to miss out on some of the cost savings associated with EAPs.
Employee assistance programs are a valuable tool for employers, as they have been shown to reduce costs and prevent problems such as absenteeism and low productivity. Although EAPs are a great idea, they must be executed properly if you want to take full advantage of their benefits. Whether you offer on-site workplace massage or free counseling services, your employees will be more likely to use the program if you offer services that they need, reassure them that all information will be kept confidential, and make sure managers promote the program in a positive way.