What is an Employee Assistance Programme?
An EAP, or Employee Assistance Programme, is a voluntary work-based intervention programme, offered by employers as an employee benefit. EAPs are designed to provide support for employees who are experiencing life issues that may impact their psycho-social functioning and productivity in the workplace, which may result in absenteeism, presenteeism amongst other workplace issues. EAPs can be in-house or outsourced. Many organisations, rather than employing or assigning an EAP manager and team, choose to hire a third-party service provider to assist in developing and implementing effective and reliable EAPs.
Today, EAPs are designed to deal with many of the issues that confront modern-day employees and negatively affect their health and productivity; for example, the need to negotiate rapid technological change in the workplace, which has served to precipitate new and different stressors and mental health crises. Even though EAPs are mainly aimed at work-related problems, modern EAPs offer a wide variety of programmes that can assist with problems outside of the workplace.
Numerous employees deal with personal and family issues that can lead to grappling with substance abuse, stress, anxiety and depression, financial difficulties and marital strife, amongst other issues. EAPs have expanded the scope of their counselling services to help workers overcome the negative effects of these wide-ranging problems. EAPs are also equipped to provide preventative services such as financial planning, career counselling and health and wellness promotion services, such as smoking cessation, fitness and weight reduction initiatives.
Another tier of EAP involves managers and supervisors who have the difficult task of meeting organisational goals as well as being sensitive to the needs of their employees. EAP training that is principally designed for managers can positively impact the effectiveness of an EAP, and managers are well placed to become an important agent in encouraging employee buy-in and participation which may assure the success and an EAP.
In the face of technological advances, the field of Employee Assistance has begun to embrace many new models of service delivery. Digital technology allows for tele-counselling, online counselling, counselling by text messages. EAPs are now offering apps for employees to download onto their mobile devices; providing a handy guide to EAP services, with links to articles about a variety of work/life and mental health issues. These provide a great self-help guide for employees and can be referred to repeatedly and shared with family members. These new EAP delivery methods work to improve the widespread accessibility of employee assistance programmes in promoting employee health and wellness – particularly among tech-savvy employees.