EAPs for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) | EAPA-SA

Most businesses, whether large or small, care about the health and wellbeing of their employees, but for SMEs, it can be more difficult to rationalise their investment in an EAP when so many other areas of the business compete for a slice of the budget.  However, a well devised EAP could effectively be an SME’s first line of defence, because the bottom line of small and medium-sized organisations can suffer relatively quickly in the face of a drop off in overall employee productivity or a decrease in a key employee’s performance.

In a small enterprise, or startup, the entire organisation can become negatively impacted by the onset of a single employee issue. The organisation runs the risk of being fundamentally damaged if its leadership does not provide effective measures to assist in remedying such an issue before it escalates. EAPs can limit, or even pre-empt, the impact of mental or physical health challenges, family or financial issues, right from when an employee or workforce starts to experience the  challenge and, ultimately, can help to build emotional resilience into an organisation as a whole.

Employees should, preferably, separate their personal and professional lives, but in reality, many employees spend their working days worrying over personal matters. Presenteeism – when employees continue to attend work, even though they are experiencing being mentally or physically unwell – can reduce their effectiveness and negatively affect productivity levels.  While it is not ideal for a small organisation to be operating with a compromised headcount, employees should feel comfortable enough to seek the assistance they need – knowing it is on a confidential basis.  EAPs can be of great help to small businesses in providing a confidential avenue for seeking appropriate help – and in assisting employees to take steps to improve their wellbeing – whether this leads to taking time off work, being referred to a financial or addiction specialist, or even in receiving advice on how to achieve a better work-life balance.

More than assisting employees in making decisions to improve their wellbeing, EAPs can be seen as a meaningful component of an SME’s employee retention strategy. Today’s top talent looks beyond just remuneration when making career choices, particularly as benefits such as health and wellbeing offerings become more common.  What’s more, EAPs are a financially sound investment in terms of engaging and developing staff as compared to the costs of high employee turnover.

A growing number of studies show that providing EAPs can result in numerous benefits for organisations of all sizes. These include lower medical costs, reduced turnover and absenteeism, and higher employee productivity. Thus, an SME who provides an effective, full-service EAP stands to help both themselves and their employees by lowering the potential of risk and liability along with improving employee productivity and engagement.

It stands to reason that EAPs can serve to decrease the stress that leaders of smaller organisations experience when managing numerous responsibilities with relatively little management support.

Benefits of EAP include:

  • Direct Access: Employees are able to contact counsellors directly.
  • Quick Response: The first counselling session can occur within a few days, and a crisis idealt with immediately.
  • Professional Support: Counsellors have earned a master’s or doctorate in psychology or counselling, and are experts in human behaviour.
  • Confidentiality: The employer is not informed which employees use the service.
  • Off-Site Assistance: Counselling can take place off-premises.
  • Direct Treatment: Referrals are made when the patient requires another specialist or long-term care.
  • Widespread Assistance: Through technology, 24-hour assistance is available in whichever town or city employees are located

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Employee_assistance_program

2 https://www.bytestart.co.uk/sme-employee-assistance-programme.html