Employee Assistance Programs

The Big Problem With Employee Assistance Programs

Every company should have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Mental health issues are on the rise, and companies are finally starting to recognize the severity of this problem.

Besides the loss of productivity, and monetary losses for the business, if you care about your employees as people, you’ll understand what a big issue this really is.

A lot of the problems that people are going through right now are still largely due to the recession that happened 5 years ago.

There are still a ton of problems out there, and it’s still not a very pretty labour market.

Even the many people who were lucky enough to find employment again, have often found a job that they were overqualified for and are now ‘underemployed’.

Some companies have started making some progress in this area, but unfortunately, a lot of employee assistance efforts are reactive, instead of being proactive.

For example, some companies set up a hotline where employees can call if they feel anxious or depressed, but that’s only after the fact. I wish more companies would look into prevention instead of treatment.

Employee Mental Health Statistics

Let’s look at some of the data…

  • Of the 4,000 Canadians who die every year as a result of suicide, most were confronting a mental health problem or illness
  • Up to 70% of young adults living with mental health problems report that the symptoms started in childhood
  • Productivity losses related to personal and family health problems cost U.S. employers $1,685 per employee per year, or $225.8 billion annually
  • 62% of American workers said that their workload has increased over the past six months and that they had not used all of their allotted vacation time in the past year
  • More than 80% of employees feel that companies are expecting too much work from too few people.
  • Indirect costs of untreated mental health disorders results in a $79 billion annual loss to businesses due to loss of productivity and absenteeism
  • 24% of employees work six or more hours per week without pay, and 47% of management does the same
  • 31% of working fathers say they would leave their jobs if their spouse/partner could financially support the family and another 30% would take a cut in pay to spend more time with their children
  • In a national study, work-family conflict was found to be related to mood, anxiety and substance abuse disorders
  • 44% of workers have gained weight in their current job and nearly one-third (32%) say that work-related stress contributed to their weight gain
  • In the past 15 years, depression has doubled and suicide tripled

As you can see, this is no joke. I spoke to someone I know who works for a Fortune 500 company in the US. The company and the person shall remain nameless, out of respect.

We were talking one day, and they were telling me how their employer understands how hard it is out there, and there are so many people out there looking for work, that employees are kind of desperate.

This person was telling me how their employer overworks their employees, knowing full well that they won’t quit because they need a job.

This really opened my eyes to what’s going on here. Some companies (not all of them) want to squeeze as much productivity out of their employees as possible, with no regard for their well-being.

I talk a lot about the importance of work-life balance, and how it directly affects your work.

Benefits Of An Employee Assistance Program

The idea of not investing in an employee assistance program seems kind of silly when you think about the direct effect it has on your business. Here are a few of the benefits of implementing an employee assistance program.

  • Decreased Absenteeism
  • Increased Productivity
  • Improved Morale
  • Prevent Workplace Accidents
  • Reduce Medical and Disability Benefit Claims
  • Increased Employee Satisfaction

Most importantly, having an employee assistance program shows employees that you actually care about them.

Here’s how tolessen employee turnover.

What Companies Can Do To Assist Employees

One of the most famous initiatives in Canada about mental health disorders is Bell Canada’s “Let’s Talk” campaign.

For those that might not know what it is, every year on January 28th, Bell donates 5 cents for each text message, phone call, Facebook message, Tweet, etc…all in an effort to raise awareness for mental health disorders.

This year, they raised over $5 Million.

A few years ago, Bell implemented a mental health training program for their leadership.

Since then, the company’s employee assistance program usage is up, and relapses in mental health disability claims are down.

As you can see, education is the first step to getting this problem fixed.

Queens University, in collaboration with Bell and Morneau Shepell, has created the first university-certified mental health training that is aligned with the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.

Here are a few other ideas to think about:

  1. Use What You’ve Got Already – Chances are there are some cool programs you already offer employees, but they’re not well known or not taught to employees enough. Work with whoever is in charge of benefits at your company, and find out what opportunities there are in what you’ve got already.
  2. Centralize All The Data – A lot of times, there are tons of cool programs, but they’re difficult to find out about and to apply for. Make it easy for employees and managers to access this information in a one-stop shop. Usually a company intranet is the best place to go, but make it centralized, and really easy to access.
  3. Ask Around – Ask other people at other companies, whether they’re your friends or in a similar industry, you can always ask around and find out what other companies are doing, what’s worked well for them, and what hasn’t.

Do You Need To Improve Your Employee Assistance Program?

There are a lot of easy ways to make this work, but this is incredibly important.

Depression and other mental issues are on the rise, and as employers, we need to stay mindful of this. What do you do to assist your employees? Let me know your thoughts on twitter@Officevibe.

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