We live in a society in which discussing physical health is considered paramount, but discussing mental health is often taboo. For aches, pains, illnesses and injuries, the most common response is to see a doctor but for feelings of stress, depression or anxiety, people often feel uncomfortable or embarrassed discussing their experience with anyone else.
Why is that? Why do we as a society encourage each other to achieve good physical health but often ignore emotional stressors?
Promoting and supporting employees' physical and mental health is a necessity to achieving a productive, healthy, engaged, driven, loyal workforce.
An effective Employee Assistance Program (EAP) supports employees’ physical and emotional well-being by addressing key personal issues that directly affect physical health and workplace productivity.
What is an EAP and why is it important?
By definition, EAPs typically provide a wide range of services and resources to both employers and employees to support overall well-being and workplace functioning.
Most commonly, EAPs offer services that address a range of personal issues and goals that may interfere with an employee’s overall well-being and engagement at work.
We can offer counseling for mental illness or substance abuse issues, interpersonal relationships, legal problems, and financial difficulties.
We can connect employees to relevant information and resources to support personal health and improved work/life balance.
EAP's can also provide training and consultations for managers and supervisors to address existing organizational concerns.
In general, EAPs are meant to improve the overall strength and functionality of every component within your workplace, including reducing absenteeism, accidents and workplace violence occurrences, turnover, and improving healthcare costs and team and individual performance.
Why employers are becoming increasingly focused on improving employees’ physical and mental health?
As the primary funder of healthcare for your employees, most employers agree that reducing employee health risks, reducing healthcare costs and improving employee productivity top the list of wellness program objectives.
By reducing the prevalence and severity of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses in their population, employers can start to regain control over their healthcare and disability costs.
According to the World Health Organization, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability worldwide.
When you combine the costs and risks associated with chronic illness and mental health and the ROI potential, implementing and encouraging the utilization of both an EAP and a comprehensive employee wellness program is an obvious choice.
Effective EAPs and wellness programs facilitate improved physical and mental health, which, in turn, benefits the individual employee’s quality of life and workplace functioning.
Studies have shown that a major reason EAPs remain underutilized is due to the inability to effectively communicate their value and impact.
While companies continue to emphasize the importance of EAPs and wellness programs, finding effective methods of introducing and encouraging the use of these benefits must remain at the forefront of the movement to improve employee well-being.
Three steps to increase EAP utilization
1. Assess the needs of your employees to determine services to offer.
Overcoming EAP underutilization and improving employee access to the available benefits starts with a workplace wellness assessment.
A workplace wellness assessment enables you to identify health factors that impact employees to help you determine which specific services best benefit your entire organization.
The scope of the program you choose will depend on four key factors:
- Number of employees
- Demographic (race, gender, age, education, income level, etc.)
2. Integrate your EAP with the wellness program, health plan and other employee benefits.
3. Educate employees about the services offered and maintain a supportive culture.
Provide continued education for your employees regarding available EAP services throughout the year, while also facilitating an environment in which the stigmas of mental health are consistently addressed and normalized.
Be sure to communicate to employees that all EAP inquiries and any services provided to the employee is completely confidential.
Achieving a workforce that is mentally & physically well starts with a tailored Employee Wellness Program.