For employers looking to increase productivity, employee assistance programs just might be the right solution. EAPs provide various types of counseling services, depending on what the employer elects, and these programs are specifically designed to help employees solve personal issues that are affecting their work and get those who must take off time back to the office sooner, says Mary Malone, disability and productivity consultant at the Standard, an insurance and financial service company.
“The employee can have a minor issue and receive services before it becomes a major issue,” Malone says. “It could be a family issue, a work issue or just dealing with a world situation that they are stressing over.”
To get the most out of EAPs, employers should focus on employee communication, Malone says. Employees typically do not have intimate knowledge of EAPs, and it is up to the employer to educate them on the specifics. When it comes to education, employers should communicate how the process works, why it is effective and the confidential nature of EAPs. Posting information on EAPs in common areas that employees frequent, such as lunch rooms and company intranets, is an effective way to promote the message.
“When employees tell me why they haven’t called the EAP, it’s either because they forgot about the service or didn’t want their employers to know about what was happening in personal lives,” Malone says. “Once I reminded employees about the ease of contact and let them know there would be no release of confidential information without permission, then they readily reached out and contacted the EAP. It’s about making certain employees are aware of the service and how it works.”
As acute situations arise, employers should be prepared to share information on EAPs with those employees, Malone says. For instance, if an employee is taking intermittent or continual leave, this is the time for the employer to proactively distribute information to the employee. This employee may not have known about the available support, and it helps the employee return to work sooner.
Malone also recommends employers conduct seminars outlining how EAPs work. These seminars are generally run by EAP counselors who can discuss some situations they’ve seen resolved by EAPs. Conducting seminars even gives human resources the chance to conduct polls regarding some of the toughest situations employees are facing.
“It’s good when employees hear a story and can see themselves in that situation,” Malone says. “It tells them the EAP isn’t only for someone on antidepressants or someone who had a major life-altering incident. EAPs can be from someone who is just feeling very stressed, which is making it difficult for them to work.”