In a perfect world, being able to maintain an ideal work-life balance would be a walk in the park. But how often do we end up struggling to achieve it? Issues that come up out of the woodwork – be they financial worries, emotional well-being or even finding child care – make the impossible task that much more difficult. Although these might sound like common problems, the reality is that they take a toll on our minds and bodies.
In order to help employees when “life happens” many organizations offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as a part of their group benefits. However, despite the prevalence, a survey from IFEBP reported that 49% of organizations saw less than 6% utilization amongst employees (IFEBP, 2016). This begs the question… Are employees unaware of the EAP? Are they simply not sure what to expect? Or do they have confidentiality concerns about personal information being shared with their employer?
If this sounds like your organization, perhaps it’s time to re-position your EAP.
What is the EAP anyway?
EAP is a great resource that acts as a support system for employees. The program provides employees with advice, support, and information on a wide range of everyday issues, including, parenting, education, finances, career, emotional well-being and more. It is designed to help employees and their dependents manage work and personal lives better, in order to lead a healthier, happier and more productive life.
ADDRESS THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM.
Talk about what's on everyone's mind: does the EAP provider or insurance carrier share information about my personal problems to my employer? The honest answer... no. Most insurance carriers don't provide the EAP service themselves; they contract with a third party such as Ceridian or Solaris. The third-party provider only reports on usage of the plan in terms of the total number of calls received in a year. The identities of callers or reason for the calls are undisclosed as it is protected by law and considered confidential information.
Inquire if the employees found the EAP service useful by asking for anonymous feedback. Ask for their honest opinion on the overall experience and if there is any room for improvement on the program. If they have not used the service, consider asking what could possibly be preventing them – or if they already have access to similar program offerings through another provider.
THE RIGHT CURE AT THE RIGHT TIME.
There is no better way to emphasize the need for a service than positioning it front and center at the right time. During a time of crisis, such as a local disturbance or public emergency, communicate to staff that might be impacted that there is a confidential counseling service available. For example, an email sent out by the HR Director to staff expressing sympathy when there is a local tragedy and directing employees who require help that the EAP is available.
No one likes walking into the unknown as it can be quite scary and uncomfortable. That alone is enough reason for employees to avoid using the service. It is best to inform your employees of what to expect. Be prepared to have answers to questions like: when can I call? who will I be talking to? will my conversation be recorded? what information will they require?
Nothing is better than first-hand experience.