Mature counselor listens compassionately to client
An employee assistance program (EAP) is a free and confidential work-based service that helps employees tackle issues in their personal lives and helps boost job performance. — Getty Images/ SDI Productions

Your employees will face personal challenges that can negatively impact their performance at work. An employee assistance program can give them the tools they need to navigate this season and continue showing up at work.

[Read more: 4 Factors that Drive Employee Morale and Why They Matter to Your Business]

What is an employee assistance program?

An employee assistance program (EAP) is a work-based program that helps employees resolve issues they're facing in their personal lives. This is a free and confidential service that allows employees to tackle the problems affecting their job performance.

Companies began offering EAPs in the 1940s to navigate the challenges that drug and alcohol addiction had on the workplace. Since then, EAPs have expanded and can help employees through the following issues:

  • Workplace conflicts.
  • Mental health challenges.
  • Financial problems.
  • Family member issues.
  • Addiction treatment and recovery.

The EAP does this by providing assessments, short-term counseling or by recommending further resources; however, the employee will be responsible for any additional treatment needed.

[Read more: The Best Ways to Measure Employee Productivity (Even When They Work Remotely)]

One of the reasons many employers choose to offer an EAP is that it benefits everyone. Employees receive the assistance they need to navigate challenges, and as a result, they have more to contribute to their job.

What are the benefits of offering an EAP?

One of the reasons many employers choose to offer an EAP is that it benefits everyone. Employees receive the assistance they need to navigate challenges, and as a result, they have more to contribute to their job.

According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), here are some of the most significant benefits of offering an EAP:

  • Increased productivity: Employees who participate in an EAP miss fewer days of work and are more engaged in their jobs.
  • Safer workplace: A successful EAP can lower the incidence of workplace violence, reduce workplace accidents and prevent other safety risks.
  • Lower healthcare costs: EAPs have been shown to reduce the healthcare costs associated with mental health issues.
  • Lower managerial burden: Managers are not equipped to deal with certain issues. An EAP can help employees and managers learn to navigate workplace stresses.

[Read more: What to Consider When Renewing Your Business's Health Insurance]

How do I get started with an EAP?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 54% of U.S. workers have access to an EAP. If you're interested in offering this benefit to your employee, here are a couple of steps you can take to get started.

Find a reputable provider

The first step you'll need to take is to find a provider to offer the program. Start by talking to your current healthcare provider to see if they offer an EAP. Or, if you use a professional employer organization, your employees may automatically receive access to this benefit.

  • When you're looking for a provider, here are a few things to look for:
  • How long the company has been in business.
  • Whether they've worked with other companies in your industry.
  • Whether employees will receive services on- or offsite.
  • The scope of services that the company offers.
  • The credentials and training staff members have.
  • The type of follow-up services provided to ensure employee success.

Remind your employees about the program

Your employees will not sign up for the EAP unless they understand how it benefits them. So it's your job to educate your employees about the program and remind them it's available.

Your EAP may provide you with pamphlets and information to help your employees understand how the program works. And it's a good idea to choose a point person in your office who is responsible for drafting policies to ensure this information is communicated to employees.

When new employees go through orientation, they may not be going through any personal challenges and need to utilize an EAP. But this could change down the road, so come up with a plan for reminding your employees of this benefit.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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