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The Confidential Advocate: Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

oswaldcompanies December 18, 2017

Years ago, I was meeting with a commercial prospect. They were interviewing agents to see what additional benefits could be offered to re-engage their staff. As we continued our conversation, I learned that one of their floor managers, a highly skilled member of the team who typically motivated others, had lately seemed distracted and that leadership had trickled down to other staff members. We discussed what the employer knew of this employee’s personal life. Not much, so it seemed. He was a “keep to himself and get the job done” kind of worker.

This prospect (later turned client) had a pretty robust benefit offering already, but when he discussed the switch in this one employee, I suggested an EAP, an Employee Assistance Program. An EAP is an employer-sponsored plan that offers a variety of services to assist staff in dealing with personal problems confidentially.

Enter the EAP

Like a lot of other organizations, this customer had an EAP included in their disability plan already. We quickly put together an informative employee meeting, and the staff became highly engaged. Within weeks, the employer received notice that five of their 120 employees had already utilized the EAP benefit. Since the report was confidential, we didn’t know which employees it was. However, the “lately distracted’ floor manager had since regained a new sense of commitment, and we could only guess the reason why.

Employee productivity is important for any business, but, as in this example, people sometimes become overwhelmed by personal issues and lose their focus. That’s when job performance can diminish or absenteeism can start. Some of the major concerns that can’t help but carry over into the workplace include mental health problems, alcohol or substance abuse, relationship issues, stress management, financial or legal problems, child or elder care, or parenting children with special needs. These are all very serious concerns to staff, and they may not know where to turn to get assistance. They are also all very personal issues which may keep employees from reaching out to family, friends, or employers for help.

Philosopher William James once said, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”

An EAP can help with that. Although there are different programs available, they all include a phone line that provides confidential access 24/7. Communicated effectively, an EAP will give staff comfort in knowing they have an advisor to turn to, at their convenience, without having to schedule an appointment weeks in advance. Based on the severity of the problem, the advisor will guide the member to the treatment or counseling needed. For minimal investments (typically $2 – $5 per employee per month), staff can have access to more face-to-face visits and more comprehensive services including financial coaching, event planning or even sleep coaching.

Tips to get the most from your EAP

Regular communication will reduce the stigma associated with “asking for help.” Communicate regularly, but certainly around emotionally charged events that take place during the year such as Christmas, the New Year and summer’s end. Ensure a full understanding of the basics so members know where to find the help they need. Stress that these services are free to use, confidential and available 24 hours a day!

Over my twenty years in the benefits field, I’ve discovered a rapidly growing need for this little benefit with big returns. The pluses of this program have been tried, tested and proven for years to make a huge difference to the companies that implement and communicate them regularly. Oswald Companies can provide you with the tools to effectively launch your EAP campaign or help you chose the vendor and plans that work for you.

For more information, contact your service team representative or reach out direct here.

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