What is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?
Great businesses succeed because of great employees. The better trained, happier and healthier an employee is – both at work and in their personal life – the more productive they are and the higher quality their work.
While business can do much to assure that work environments are optimized for worker performance, many of the issues affecting productivity, attendance, safety, effort, and quality – those things that greatly impact cost and profitability – are not controllable by an employer and often have little to do with the workplace. Issues outside the workplace; families, relationships, financial and legal problems, can have as much of an impact on worker effectiveness as the work environment.
Capital EAP aims to address the many social, psychological and family-related issues that can ruin the careers of even the best workers.
These include, but are not limited to:
Personal and interpersonal problems have a negative impact on job performance
Job performance has a direct impact on costs and profitability
Employer investment costs for recruitment and training make retention a critical factor
Workers with personal issues affect their co-workers and have wide-reaching effects on morale
Supervisors and HR staff are rarely trained to manage employees with personal issues
An EAP can help employers to improve retention and worker quality, by helping their employees mental health and wellness, and helping supervisors with key interpersonal skills.
Not all EAPs are created equally
Are you simply checking the “we have the benefit” box or are you looking for real improvement?
The truth is, many companies offering “EAP services” don’t actually provide counseling services. These call centers and insurance companies simple maintain a database of counselors-for-hire. The counselors are good, but every time an employees gets an appointment, the “EAP” gets a bill from the counselor. In these models, there’s a financial disincentive to heavily promote EAP services and drive high utilization.
Industry data estimates that the average “Clinical Utilization Rate” (The percentage of employees that use clinical services each year) is from 2% to 3.5%. With an estimated 20% of employees every year struggling with emotional, mental and behavioral issues that are affecting productivity, this low rate of utilization points to a complex and multifaceted problem:
An overall reluctance to use counseling or admit to the need for counseling
Lack of understanding about what EAP services are offered, what they can be used for and how the services are different than conventional counseling
A belief that counseling won’t help or the employee can fix their problem themselves
Low awareness of the EAP by employees due to infrequent engagement by the EAP
Low awareness due to apathy of the HR or personnel managers with regards to the EAP
Utilization Rates: A Footnote of Caution
“Utilization” is a word EAPs throw around a lot. But there is no industry standard for how Utilization is defined or calculated. Most sited utilization rates combine multiple sessions by the same employee. Many EAP’s that track employee engagement will even throw opening an email or logging into a website into the mix as a factor in Utilization. These EAPs will site utilization rates of 50, 60 even 70 percent! There’s nothing wrong with opening an email. But the data with regards to employee behavioral health and the impact on worker performance don’t include email views.
Studies have show therapeutic counseling to reduce the negative impacts of mental health issues in the workplace as compared to untreated mental health issues. So when calculating the Return on Investment of an EAP, the Clinical Utilization Rates – that is, the percentage of employees that have received therapeutic counseling – is the only rate with data to support the value of the program.
Across all organizations, Capital EAP has an average Clinical Utilization Rate more than twice the industry estimates.
Results from an EAP Benefit
Different studies have shown varied results based on the industry and organization, but across the board, all studies show a clear Return on Investment for EAP programs attributed to increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, reduced errors and accidents, and improved morale:
For every dollar invested in an EAP Program there is a $5 -$16 return on that dollar (1).
When employees are referred by their supervisors due to poor work performance, returns significantly increased to $13 for every dollar invested (2).
The establishment of an EAP with emphasis on safety awareness saved one small company (70 employees) $75,000 by reducing its workers’ compensation and vehicular accident costs (3).
A $2 – $8 return on every $1 spent for an EAP was reported in 1998 based on fewer accidents, less employee theft, less absences and/or higher productivity, lower health care and lower disability costs (4).
Capital EAP has prepared a full Business Case that demonstrates the cost to employers of employee mental and behavioral health problems, and a Return on Investment model based upon Capital EAP actual average clinical utilization rates.
1 Department of Labor (1990)
2 Masi Research Consultants
3 US Dept. of Health and Human Services (1992)
4 Goldstein, T. American Compensation News, February 1998
Prevalence of Mental Illness and the Need for an EAP
It comes as no surprise that most working Americans experience stress, depression, anxiety and personal issues in their daily lives. These symptoms greatly impact worker productivity, absenteeism, safety and morale. Some of the statistics with regards to mental health in the workplace are startling:
More than 90 percent of employees agree that their mental health and personal problems spill over into their professional lives, and have a direct impact on their job performance (1).
In the United States, 30 to 40 % of the population experience mental health and substance use disorders at some point in their lives (2).
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), an estimated 26.2 % of Americans ages 18 and older or about one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year.
The majority of expenditures (typically over 70%) associated with mental illness and substance abuse disorders are found not in medical and pharmacy claims costs but instead in the indirect costs of employee absenteeism, presenteeism (i.e., when people are at work but not fully productive), turnover, and training costs for replaced workers (3).
Three in four workers with a mental disorder report reduced productivity at work, and absences are also much more frequent (4).
While 34 percent of people call in sick to work at the last minute due to “personal illness,” 66% are taking time off to deal with personal or family issues (5).
1 Mental Health America
2 Partnership for Workplace Mental Health
3 Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
4 OECD’s Employment, Labour and Social Affairs Directorate
5 CCH Unscheduled Absence Survey