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Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are popular with employers. It’s easy to see why, especially in a world where employers are becoming more attuned to how employees’ health and outside lives spill into their work lives. EAPs are designed to help employees identify and work to resolve personal problems. 

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EAPs can be useful benefits tools for both employers and employees. How can you ensure you’re getting everything out of your EAP plans?

The Value for Employees

EAPs were originally designed with employees in mind. They began as peer-to-peer programs. EAPs help employees overcome personal challenges and issues in their lives outside work, which could affect their performance in the workplace. 

Someone with financial trouble may be distracted at work, lowering their concentration and their productivity. An employee with family issues may require frequent time away from the workplace. In short, these sorts of issues keep your employees from reaching their full potential.

The Benefits for Employers

Why would employers spend money on EAPs? It’s clear how they benefit employees, but what are you getting out of it? 

First and foremost, you likely care about your employees’ well-being! If someone is missing work frequently, you’re probably going to ask them, “Is everything is ok?” You may wonder if there’s something you can do to help. EAP plans provide that helping hand. 

Next, EAP plans also have tangible economic benefits for employers. When your employees are present and emotionally well at work, they’ll be more productive and creative. In turn, you’ll boost your business’s productivity and, in turn, your bottom line. The negative effects of low engagement, such as employee absenteeism, disengagement, and unproductivity, all cost your organization money. 

EAPs can even lower your turnover. As employees become more satisfied with work and life, they’ll be less likely to leave. The more engaged they are, the more likely they are to stay on with you as well.

The Best Option for Mental Health

As employers have turned their attention to mental health in the workplace, it’s become clear EAP plans are one of the best options on the market. They’re relatively low-cost solutions, which means adding one to your benefits plan doesn’t need to stress your bottom line.

How can you make sure you’re maximizing the value of your EAP plan?

First and Foremost, Communicate

The best way to maximize an EAP plan, both from an employer and employee standpoint, is to improve communication! EAP plan communication should be part of the onboarding process to outline to the employee what is offered, what is covered, and services that they can use.

In addition, employees should be able to find information in the lunch room, at the office, and by speaking to their manager. As an employee, if you do have something you are having trouble with, or even need help, speak to your HR person or manager first.

Check for Fit

The first step in selecting EAP plans is determining fit. The price might look great on paper, but does the plan offer what you need it to offer? If you’re not getting the services you need and want, the plan is a poor fit.

Similarly, if the plan offers you too many services you don’t need or want, it’s not a good fit for you either. Do your research and make sure the plan you select fits your organization’s needs.

Pick Your Design

EAP plans run on three different models: an internal program staffed by your employees, an external model run by your vendor, or a hybrid design that combines the best of both worlds.

Again, the best design will provide your organization with better value. Think carefully about the design of your plan, the costs associated with delivery, and the effectiveness of the services offered.

Consider Your Needs and Expectations

The other way to ensure proper fit is to consider your needs and expectations for the plan. What is your hope for EAP plan ROI?

Also consider the culture around leadership and benefits. EAP plans thrive in organizations with robust communications strategies. A one-and-done benefits enrollment strategy isn’t nearly as effective for EAPs.

If you’re considering EAP plans or wondering how you can make yours more valuable to the company, think about some of these points as you review your options.

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Margaret Reid

As the senior vice-president of Apri Insurance Services Inc., Margaret is a benefits consultant and manager of technical support. She has almost 40 years of experience in employee benefits as well as processing health and dental claims, benefits administration, and client service and groups sales. Margaret worked at Crown Life, a major insurance carrier, for 20 years, then worked at CG&B as the manager of their group department. She moved to B.Comm Financial Insurance Solutions in 2007, which merged with several other benefit consulting companies in 2011 to create Apri Insurance Services Inc. Margaret has unintentionally followed in her father’s footsteps. He was a group sales rep with Crown Life when she was a child and helped her get her first job in group insurance, which led to her current career path.

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