What Are Employee Assistance Programs?

What Are Employee Assistance Programs?

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For many Americans, admitting to having an ongoing health problem or mental illness is a source of embarrassment and discomfort – even if it is the result of a very stressful crisis situation. Many people would rather handle these challenges individually, and never bring them up with their leadership at the office.

The issue that leaders face, then, is that they are managing employees who are being negatively impacted by a solvable problem, and they can’t do anything about it.

Recently, employee wellness and assistance programs have come to the forefront in HR and benefits discussions as a way to solve this, especially in Southern California, due to the high cost of living. An employee assistance program is a handful of benefits that are focused on long-term health, illness prevention, and a focus on general well-being, recognizing that a variety of health issues can be treated and prevented outside of a doctor’s office.

Crisis Support

Crisis support services allow an employer to provide anonymous, fast-acting support for an employee with an urgent need for assistance that they may not feel comfortable discussing with their boss or peers. An EAP with crisis support makes this assistance accessible and efficient, ensuring that employees are put in contact with trained professionals who can help.

Should something traumatic happen to an individual employee or affect the entire workplace, crisis intervention can offer employees a variety of services – talk therapy, meal assistance, and more. This can assist employees who have a sudden family illness, who are escaping intimate partner violence, or overcoming a widespread issue like a death in the workplace.

Nutrition & Fitness

Nutrition and lifestyle management programs, including team fitness challenges, gym membership reimbursement, and nutritional consultation programs can help employees improve their overall physical condition. These programs can be the trickiest to implement in a way that complies with the ADA, as well as creating fitness goals that include all employees in a healthy and respectful way.

Mental Health

Mental illnesses like depression and anxiety are one of the leading causes of employee absenteeism, and have been for many years. Another challenge is “presenteeism”: when an employee is coming into the office, but their illness is hindering their productivity, even affecting those around them.

An EAP program can provide anonymous and subsidized resources for speaking with therapists and psychiatrists, so that the employee can find some relief from the effects of mental illness. These programs must be put in place and communicated compassionately, and require management support in order to succeed.

Addiction & Substances

Often included under the mental health umbrella, addiction may require a different approach because of the stigma and financial implications of long-term addictions. Employee addiction services can include rehabilitation support groups, financial planning and assistance, and crisis intervention hotlines.

Protecting Your EAP Starts with Leadership

An Employee Assistance Program’s goal is to reduce overall medical expense by taking advantage of preventative treatments that are less expensive than ER or other hospital treatment.

The sensitive nature of the health issues an EAP addresses means that the program could be compromised by leaders who seem disapproving of employees seeking treatment, or employee fear that details about sensitive health problems could be found out by coworkers.

An EAP rollout, then, should be carefully planned by HR, and include leadership training so that these programs can be communicated in a sensitive, open manner, and communications are welcoming to all employees.

CorpStrat can help with any of your EAP needs – from planning the benefits that are right for your employee assistance program, to HR consultation that ensures your program will be HIPAA and ADA compliant from day one.

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