Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) programs began in the 1940s to assist employees with alcohol problems that were hired by companies with a shortage of skilled workers during WWII. EAPs evolved in the 1970s to be a comprehensive program to address mental health, family problems, child care, elder care, stress management, legal and financial services.
Over the years, EAPs have been widely adopted by companies across the US to help their employees deal with personal problems, which can have adverse effects on their job performance, health and general well-being. EAPs provide services such as short-term counseling and referral services for employees and their household members. EAP services are funded by the employers and 80% are delivered by outside vendors who operate as for-profit companies.
EAPs help with improving employees’ behavioral health, comprising of mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. The programs provide therapy to help employees learn the coping skills to deal with depression, workplace stress and other mental health issues. These programs will help improve employee performance and employers need to show that they have their employees’ best interests in mind. According to experts, when employees are feeling their best they will have better productivity and engagement.
An estimated 43.6 million (18.1%) Americans ages 18 and up experienced some form of mental illness according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. New York-based Towers Watson & Co. found that 85% of employers of all sizes offer stress management services as a part of their EAP, but only 5% of employees choose to utilize the aid.
To help promote EAPs, companies should communicate the benefits of the programs to increase employee utilization. Due to the stigma around mental health and sickness, many people may not want to reach out for help. Employees may also be hesitant to reach out to use the program with worries about employers finding out about illness or their stresses, but they must be educated that all information is private and any transfer of information would be a HIPPA violation. As mental health issues have become more prevalent in recent years (or at least more widely publicized), companies are more likely to encourage their employees to take advantage of these great programs.