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July 20, 2020 Amelia Wilcox

Pros & Cons of Employee Assistance Programs

If you’ve ever had an EAP at your company, perhaps you’ve experienced some of the pros and cons of an employee assistance program. While these programs provide much needed mental health support that helps keep employees working, healthy and happy, there are also issues with the current structure of most EAPs. Read on to learn more about the pros & cons of Employee Assistance Programs.

Employee assistance program pros and cons

So, What are the Pros & Cons of Employee Assistance Programs

In order for your staff to perform at their best, they may need support in areas such as mental health, drug or alcohol addiction, financial wellness, and so much more. If employees have issues in these areas, without treatment they will likely begin to impact their performance at work. EAPs were introduced in order to keep staff focused and productive while on the clock, by providing them with mental health care to help process and solve these issues in their personal lives.

Learn more: Employee Assistance Program Frequently Asked Questions

But traditional EAPs have been around for so long, that some things about their structure just don’t make sense.

Cons 

  1. Low Utilization: Shockingly low utilization rates (4.5% is the current industry average!) mean that staff aren’t really using these services. And it isn’t because they don’t have problems — stress and anxiety are only continuing to skyrocket. So why isn’t EAP use rising with it?
  2. That leads us to the second issue, poor communication: Most EAPs are happy to keep employees in the dark about how useful EAP services can truly be, and profit off of the low utilization rates.
  3. PEPM Structure: Most traditional EAPs are structured for payment as PEPM (per employee per month) so that means that the less they are used, the more profit the EAP makes! Not exactly a structure that benefits the end user. 
  4. Non-specific services: Some EAPs offer services that are too general to appeal to users. 
  5. Management are not allowed to partake: Often management are excluded from EAP services in typical EAP structures. Managers need care too! Especially when so many others are relying on them for their work.
  6. Complicated access system: When employees want to access EAP services, they typically have to go through HR (which can be embarrassing for a staff member that’s experiencing a crisis!), plus additional screening by intermediaries at the EAP, sometimes followed by a referral process. This complicated process means access can be delayed and challenging for employees to navigate. 
  7. Expense: While many EAPs are covered by the company, and free for the employee, some are not. If employees have to pay, that increases the barrier for entry and excludes many people who could really use these services.  
  8. Non- confidentiality: An EAPs confidentiality is a big concern to consider when choosing a program. Many employees worry that when using a company program, the EAP will not keep their information confidential. 
  9. Poor reporting: It can be hard to find the data you need to prove ROI and show that your EAP is actually worthwhile. That’s often because EAPs don’t want you to see quite how low their utilization numbers are. 
  10. Effectiveness: Many EAPs provide a very low number of sessions per employee need. In fact, only 2 to 3 sessions is the norm! For many people, and many issues, that just isn’t enough. 

employee assistance program pros

But, when an EAP is done right, it can have so many wonderful benefits for the employees it serves. 

Pros 

  1. Increased productivity: In one study, over 70% of employees reported improved productivity after using the EAP! And 69% of EAP using employees with low or moderate productivity migrated to high productivity after using the EAP. Because employees can focus on their work and leave worries behind, their productivity increases. 
  2. Decrease in feelings of depression: Almost 80% of EAP participants with depression reported an improvement after using an employee assistance program.
  3. Absenteeism drops: A recent study published in the International Journal of Health & Productivity, found that absenteeism dropped 27 percent for workers who used an EAP.
  4. Employee engagement goes up: Employees’ engagement at work grew 8 percent, while life satisfaction jumped 22 percent when using an EAP. 
  5. Decreased dependence on alcohol: The percentage of employees at higher alcohol risk levels dropped from 30% to 3% after EAP treatment, and after using an EAP, 89% of employees who used or abused alcohol were considered low risk.
  6. Reduced to no cost: If your company sets up their EAP right, all these benefits are available to your staff free of charge! It’s worth investing in your staff when you see how many benefits an EAP can potentially have. 
  7. Virtual benefits anywhere: New EAPs are changing the game with virtual services! That means your staff can access care any time they need it. Apps and online access make signing up for sessions and receiving mental health support much easier.
  8. Awesome reporting: Along with going digital, EAPs can provide accurate data that shows just how much, how often, and how effectively staff are using the services provided to them by their EAP.
  9. Unlimited access: Similarly, new EAPs are offering extra benefits, so it’s not just counseling you’re signing up for. Companies can receive access to everything from virtual yoga, guided meditation, and more as preventative care. Along with counselors and life coaches to guide them through any challenges. 

While the old EAP structure isn’t benefiting employees as much as it could (or should!), new EAPs are changing the game with easy access, fun services your staff wants, and virtual platforms that make it all simple. When deciding what EAP you should go with, take this pros and cons list into consideration! Not every EAP is created equally, so make sure the one you select has way more positives than negatives. Don’t make the mistake of paying for an EAP your staff never uses. 

Curious how an EAP would work, if you took away all those cons and replaced them with nothing but positives? So were we. That’s why we created the un-EAP, and structured our program around your company goals. We want to be on your team! That’s why we incentivize higher utilization rates, do the heavy lifting to communicate with your staff and get them on board. Plus transparent data reporting, fun services and an online library of mental and physical health boosting content are available anytime, anywhere.

Amelia Wilcox

Amelia Wilcox

Amelia Wilcox is the Founder and CEO of Zenovate formerly Incorporate Massage a leader in corporate massage since 2010. Her high-growth B2B company who’s platform provides employee stress management tools that arm businesses with actionable data and positive employee experiences to improve wellbeing, boost morale, and increase engagement.

Amelia has exponentially grown her company from a solo living-room service business to an international technology brand.

Awards
Recently listed as a Forty Under 40, Fast 50, Inc 5000 Twice awarded National Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year

Licenses, Certifications & Memberships
Licensed Massage Therapist since 2002
Member of American Massage Therapy Association
Served on Utah Worksite Wellness Council from 2012-2015

Education
Attended Utah College of Massage Therapy
Educated in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Utah

Publications
Massage Magazine (AMTA's publication)  

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