According to the National Business Group on Health, the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies offer employee assistance programs (EAPs) that deliver a variety of health and productivity services. However, when we think of EAPs, we often view them as a resource for employees to cope with depression, mental illness or substance abuse. EAPs offer so much more and can help employees improve their overall well-being.
In today’s business world, companies realize that health means so much more than just our physical health. Well-being encompasses our physical health PLUS our purpose in work and life, social access, financial behaviors, and sense of community. Employers also realize that job stress costs organizations $300B each year. That’s why organizations are providing resources that address employee total well-being and employee work-life balance
Because we realize that sometimes our stress isn’t always work related, organizations have enlisted EAPs to assist employees with concerns that impact life at home and at work. EAPs provide a place for employees to privately focus on these concerns. For example, EAPs offer some surprising EAP services that can improve our personal lives.
- Child-care and elder care – According to Pew Research, nearly half of adults in their 40s/50s are providing some form of support to both a child and a parent. For individuals in that situation, they want to know that their family is being taken care of and is safe. EAPs can provide guidance on trustworthy resources for your child or parental care needs.
- Attorney/Legal services – Ever been in one of those situations where you wondered if you should speak with an attorney? And later dismissed the notion of calling one because you thought about the hundreds of dollars it would cost just to find out if you need an attorney? EAPs provide access to free legal consultation for issues such as wills, estate planning, family law and consumer protection.
- Relationship issues – This could be at work or at home. We do not all get along with everyone all the time. It’s a part of being human. But we need to be able to work through difficult moments and effectively manage relationships. EAPs can provide a confidential sounding board to share your thoughts and concerns and give constructive feedback on how to handle difficult interpersonal situations.
- Financial expertise – Making good money decisions can weigh heavily on our minds for ourselves and our families. EAPs can help with budgeting, getting out of debt, loan consolidation, saving, taxes and home buying or renting. So we can help our children develop good financial habits, especially when we hear that the Millennial generation has greater financial burdens.
Realizing the variety of services the EAPs provide can minimize some of the potential awkwardness. Laurie Mitchell, assistance vice president of well-being and health management at Unum shared three ways for employees to inquire about EAP benefits, without speaking to a manager or co-worker.
- Look at your company’s benefit package to find out about your company EAP. Keep in mind that it might have a different name such as work-life balance program or well-being program.
- Check your company’s intranet or go to your EAP website to get specific details about the services they offer. For example, some might offer assistance with simple wills, transportation and/or difficult teenagers.
- Call the EAP directly. Remember their services are completely confidential. Feel free to ask your EAP about privacy protections.
We all know it can be difficult to ask for assistance. But we also know that we’ve been in positions where we wanted a little help facing life’s challenges. Employees use EAPs for a variety of services. But the reason employees use an EAP is the same – to get help solving a problem, relieve a bit of stress, or take care of an issue before it becomes unmanageable, so they can focus on their work.