Employee Assistance Programs – Costly or Priceless?

I have long thought of employee assistance programs (EAPs) as a costly luxury provided by only the most profitable businesses to their staffs. “The Integrated Employee Assistance Program” presented by Jeffery Christie (Global Manager, Halliburton EAP) at yesterday’s Montgomery County SHRM luncheon gave me a new perspective on EAPs.

According to Mr. Christie, the primary goal of an EAP should be to enhance productivity and safety in the workplace. Any subsequent benefits to the employees’ well-being are a consequence of meeting this goal.

Mr. Christie’s presentation shattered the myth of EAPs serving as little more than onsite counseling clinics. He proposed that, properly utilized, EAPs serve as multifaceted tools. The services they can provide an employer include:

  • Return to work evaluations determining whether an employee who has been on leave for a mental health issue is actually ready to return to work. Such determinations can be especially crucial for employees engaged in safety sensitive jobs.
  • Determining the need for any follow-up care required by employees returning from mental health related leaves.
  • Designing and implementing alcohol and substance abuse policies.
  • Designing and overseeing procedures for managing employees who test positive for drugs.
  • Participating in the organization’s response to large-scale disasters which impact its workforce.
  • Assisting employees following the death of a co-worker.
  • Designing mental health and substance abuse benefits

Mr. Christie underscored the value of having an Employee Assistance Program by identifying some of the returns on investment an organization may expect from a fully utilized EAP. These returns may include:

  • The retention of valuable employees going through a life crisis
  • Improving employee engagement
  • Developing competencies in managing workplace stress and team performance
  • Reducing healthcare costs by identifying and helping employees to work through depression which, untreated, often presents itself as medical maladies
  • Facilitating employees’ safe and timely return to work
  • Reducing absenteeism
  • Reducing accidents

A big thank you to Mr. Christie for sharing with us how an EAP can serve as a cost-effective asset to an organization when it is integrated into various programs (such as benefit planning, risk management, and supervisor training) rather than relegated to a back room visited only by employees in crisis.

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