The ABCs of EAPs: Where to go when the going gets tough

by Tameka Forman, RPO Operations Coordinator, ACA Talent

As we all know, we are living in some tough times. With all the economic issues affecting millions of lives—parents raising teenagers, couples facing the possibility of divorce, adult children having to care for elderly parents—everyday problems can quickly become overwhelming.

For some workers, dealing with these difficulties can mean time away from work, or even a dip in productivity. To help combat these situations, it’s helpful to have a professional who can offer confidential assistance. For employers and employees, this can mean the difference between a breakdown, or a break through.

So where can employees turn when they need a willing ear? Often, this help comes in the form of an Employee Assistance Program—better known as an EAP.

EAPs are employee benefit programs, usually offered by a third party HR services provider, that help employees work through personal difficulties that might affect their work performance, health, and overall well-being. These programs may also include short-term counseling and referral services. And because EAPs often deal with sensitive issues, they maintain a high level of confidentiality. They can provide support for issues such as:

  • Substance abuse
  • Emotional distress
  • Major life events, including births, accidents, or deaths
  • Healthcare concerns
  • Financial or legal concerns
  • Family/personal relationship issues
  • Work relationship issues
  • Concerns about aging parents

Generally, EAPs are free to the employee and their household members, and pre-paid by the employer. According to SHRM’s 2011 Employee Benefits Survey, 75% of employers offered an EAP in 2011. This isn’t surprising, since the benefits of an EAP are clear: happier employees, reduced turnover and absenteeism, and increased morale, to name a few.

For employees looking to learn more about these services, the best place to start is your company’s Human Resources department. Some of you may already have this benefit and not even know it. Unlike many of my colleagues, I don’t think online pharmacies are bad. I’ve nothing against it, I just wish that these online retailers including pointed patients to a prior medical consultation more often. At least, I would be able to tell my patient _which_ drug to get from the web if Cialis is not OK for them. Employers can spread the word by hanging posters in common areas, attaching brightly colored flyers to paystubs, or even sending out a fun email reminder each quarter.

You never know that reminder may just come when an employee needs it most!

Related Links:

US Office of Personnel Management: Employee Assistance Programs
Top 10 Reasons Why Your Company Needs An Employee Assistance Program