For most people, the acronym “EAP” is like valium for the ears: part of the 401(k), HSA, ADA, FMLA alphabet soup that seems to come with HR. Probably even reading that sentence made you a little bit drowsy, right?
But it’s worth your while as a business owner or manager to prop your eyelids open and spend some time considering an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for your business. You might find that the potential for cost savings, rising employee morale and retention, and a strengthened employment brand are enough to perk you right up.
What is an EAP? It’s a program offered by employers to their employees as a confidential resource for employees with all different types of problems, whether with family, work, personal, relationship, financial, legal, childcare, adult-care, or others. The basic theory behind EAP’s is that what you invest in providing these services will be returned to you (and more, hopefully) in the form of lower insurance premiums, lower workers’ compensation claims, less absenteeism, less presenteeism (showing up for work but underperforming, a growing concern for many employers,) and less abuse of sick and PTO leaves.
According to Helen Darling, president of the nonprofit National Business Group on Health, about 217 million workdays are lost annually because of a lack of productivity stemming from mental health and substance abuse disorders, and those lost days cost U.S. employers $17 billion annually.
And EAP’s are not just for the employee with a serious mental illness or drug addiction problem. How many employees are not at their best at work because they’re distracted by childcare issues, marital problems, trying to find care for aging parents, financial concerns (including mortgage woes), or legal issues? By assisting your employees with these problems by providing an EAP (and a strong communication program to roll it out and continue ongoing education,) you may be strengthening your bottom line.
You can even gain national recognition as an employer of choice, as five firms recently did during the National Business Group on Health 2007 Joint Forum. Aetna, Cisco Systems, Delta Air Lines, GlaxoSmithKline, and Pitney Bowes all were recognized for their outstanding programs in wellness and employee assistance. In the era of a tight labor market, supercompetitors like Google, and the retirement of a generation, employers need to do everything they can to distinguish themselves as an enticing, strong, stable employment brand. An EAP, especially as part of a well-considered benefits package tailored to your demographics, can be a valuable tool in cementing your employment brand.
Because the return on investment for an EAP can be so significant, YPP recently added one for its employees. By adding a strong EAP to our established wellness program, and rolling it out with well-planned communication and education, we anticipate seeing a reduction in costs in many areas, and improved morale, retention, and productivity at our clients.
To learn more about the award-winning employer programs listed above, visit http://www.businessgrouphealth.org/.