By Angela Godfrey
From time to time, all employees experience personal problems that affect their mental and physical health and wellbeing. Naturally, this can spill over into the workplace, affecting an employee’s performance, which can cost businesses in many ways, including through:
- increased sick leave;
- presenteeism, i.e. affected employees come to work but are not focused on the job;
- conflict between team members when affected employees don’t pull their weight; and
- resignation by affected employees when they cannot cope at work.
Consequently, employers must understand the importance and benefit of implementing Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs).
What are EAPs?
EAPs provide confidential access to professional assistance and counselling, and are usually offered to employees at no cost. EAP services deal with a variety of problems, both work-related and personal, that affect employees. Depending on the business’s arrangements, EAP services can also extend to immediate family members.
EAPs are confidential and voluntary. Any outcomes are kept in confidence.
Types of EAP services include:
- supporting the mental wellbeing of employees when dealing with life issues, e.g. stress, grief, personal relationship problems and alcohol and drug abuse;
- supporting health and physical conditions as a consequence of mental wellbeing issues, including preventative health measures, such as quitting smoking or alcohol and drug addiction programs;
- providing information and guidance on life issues, such as dealing with elderly relatives and financial worries; and
- managing conflict and mediation services between colleagues within the workplace.
EAPs aim to address issues before they adversely affect an employee’s work performance.
6 ways EAP services can benefit your business
Companies are increasingly required to do more with fewer resources. An employee suffering from personal issues is often less productive and inattentive, which can lead to dangerous mistakes. Assisting the employee to manage their personal issues through professional support helps the employee to deal with the personal issues head-on, and minimises the effects on their work performance.
2. Financial cost
When an employee is suffering from personal issues, they may be prone to absenteeism or presenteeism. Both of which are significant costs to your business. Presenteeism, in particular, can have many costs – not just through lower productivity. For instance, if the employee is not focused on their work in an environment where health and safety risks are high, there is an increased chance of accidents. Workers’ compensation claims are costly.
Furthermore, if the employee is feeling extremely stressed or overwhelmed, they may even resign. The cost of replacement should never be underestimated.
EAP services aim for early intervention. Helping the employee early can reduce the risk of these costs to your business.
Dealing with personal issues may result in increased conflict or tension in the workplace. Team members may be resentful if they feel that a colleague is not pulling their weight. This is when managers need to intervene and encourage the employee to seek professional help to assist with their personal issues.
4. Professional services
EAPs connect employees to professional services. For example, providing a financial planner for employees with financial issues or providing guidance to parents on dealing with a troubled teenager.
5. Work performance
Work performance is greatly affected by stress and personal problems. Issues of work performance escalate as the employee is not focused on their work, causing lack of quality and missed deadlines. An EAP manages these problems and ensures employee issues are quickly resolved. This means fewer mistakes at work, higher quality output and an overall increase in workplace performance.
6. HR issues
In some ways, EAPs provide HR functions. EAPs can help managers resolve problems that their employees are experiencing. For example, a manager may seek advice about how to deal with an employee who is consistently late or conflict between team members.
Today, there is often a blurring of lines between work and home. Troubled employees don’t leave their personal problems at home. They bring them to work. If these problems are not dealt with promptly, they can have an effect on morale and culture, and they cost the business due to lack of productivity, sick leave or turnover. Therefore, EAPs are imperative no matter how large or small the business.