Employers considering an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for their workforce must weigh many factors as they make their decision. Quite often, this decision is shaped by business conditions, data analytics and corporate culture. Because an EAP addresses sensitive issues such as mental health and substance abuse, understanding how to best frame the program within your workforce is key.

Is an EAP right for my company?

For some companies, the decision to implement an EAP is largely driven by industry. If you’re an industrial contractor operating in the refinery and petrochemical space, the ability of your employees to work safely for your clients is paramount. An industrial contractor can retain existing work and pursue new business only with superior safety performance.

In a heavy industrial environment, workers who are not able to fully focus on their work due to an untreated mental illness or substance abuse problem become a hazard to themselves and those around them. Furthermore, data indicates 27 percent of all employee absences are due at least in part to depression and/or substance abuse. Minimizing absenteeism is vital to an industrial contractor’s business model.

Know the facts, details of EAP

Even now in 2018, there can still be a stigma attached to EAP services, particularly in an industrial environment. An employer can highlight certain program details to assuage employee fears:

  • Program confidentiality. The easiest way to sabotage a program’s success is for employees to think their HR department is tracking utilizers. Assure your employees that the program is 100-percent confidential. This is the No. 1 reason employees do not make use of EAP resources.
  • The EAP’s existence. Unlike medical insurance or a retirement plan, EAPs generally do not generate a lot of discussion when employees review their benefits packages. Because of this, an employer must continuously promote the EAP to employees to maximize its impact.
  • No referrals should be necessary. Employees should not need permission from a manager or a formal referral from the HR department to make use of the program. The EAP should be available to meet the employees where they are.
  • Improved personal relationships. Those abusing substances or suffering from anxiety or stress have a hard time maintaining meaningful personal relationships.
  • Better focus at work. Counseling can provide an individual with the tools to better balance their home and work lives. Ideally, this would result in improved job site safety and reduced absenteeism.
  • Additional resources. Most EAPs will offer ancillary services to augment the core benefits. For many employees, such services can serve as an elegant entry to the program and may include:
  • Financial and legal assistance.
  • Guidance on accessing public resources.
  • Child care and elder care.
  • Tax guidance.
  • Educational assistance.
  • Critical incident support. If there is a tragedy that impacts the workplace such as a fatality or other traumatic event, EAP counselors are available to talk with witnesses and those impacted by the incident at the worksite. This in-person service lends credibility to the EAP overall.

Data indicates 27 percent of all employee absences are due at least in part to depression and/or substance abuse.

While there are areas of common ground, namely confidentiality, the ideal EAP for a law firm or a financial services company will be very different from that of an industrial contractor or a manufacturing company. Employers must be mindful of their culture as they devise a program designed to meet the specific needs of their organization.

For more information, email Dan Burke at dburke@turner-industries.com.

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