When selecting a health care plan for their employees, employers tend to consider things like convenient care options, personalized experiences, and cost savings. Along with this, the focus tends to be on finding plans that emphasize physical health. After all, the vast majority of illnesses and injuries that their employees will face are physical.
That being said, it’s critical to find health care plans and benefits that address employees’ mental health. Between the continued spread of Covid-19 and economic uncertainty throughout the country, we are all experiencing stress and anxiety. But even beyond these uncertain times, long-standing mental health issues among your employees can be extremely burdensome. Along with this, there are hidden costs of ignoring mental health in the workplace.
Ultimately, an employee assistance program (“EAP”) can be a fantastic addition to your health care plan. Because of this, it is worth taking the time to explore what EAPs are and how they can benefit both employees and employers.
A Primer on EAPs
EAPs are voluntary, work-based intervention programs that help employees resolve personal problems that may be affecting their work. Some of those personal problems can include marital issues, alcohol and other substance abuse, psychological disorders, family issues, and grief. The general principle is that EAPs help employees address a long list of issues or mental disorders that may be seeping into their day-to-day work.
Employees who are interested in addressing these problems can do so at no cost. They can leverage a wide range of services. For instance, employees can access free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services. Other services include nurse advice lines, adoption assistance, and basic legal assistance. Better yet, these benefits aren’t just available to employees. Employees’ spouses, children, and non-marital partners living in the same household can also take advantage of an EAP. No matter who is using an EAP, he or she can do so in the method that is most convenient for them. This includes services delivered face-to-face, phone, video, email interactions, or online chat.
As you can see, EAPs can be extremely valuable for employees. They can go a long way in helping those employees manage (and even solve) the mental issues that they are experiencing. Yet those aren’t the only benefits. For employers, EAPs can be outstanding ways to increase employee productivity and improve their bottom lines.
Yes, there are financial costs for employers who choose to offer an EAP. But that being said, EAPs often provide more value to employers than these initial costs. This is because EAPs can help your employees perform at, or close to, their full potential. For as much as we may hope that employees enter the office and perform at their highest levels, they obviously aren’t robots. While employees may want to do their best possible work, their personal struggles may significantly hamper their work product. EAPs can help your employees take on those struggles head-on. In doing so, employers like you can see huge benefits like reduced absences, lower workers’ compensation claims, health care costs, conflicts among coworkers, and legal and financial issues.
There is one more benefit, however. That is the signal that you are sending employees. Offering an EAP shows that you take mental health seriously and that you truly care about their mental health. It adds to your workplace culture, making it a more positive and safe place for your employees. In turn, this improvement leads to more productivity, happier employees, and more profits. While it may not seem like much, offering an EAP can get you much closer to your business goals.
If you are interested in offering an EAP, you’re able to take advantage of many different delivery models. They include management-sponsored EAPs, fixed-fee contracts, fee-for-service contracts, and mixed-model programs. Whichever delivery model you choose, recognize that EAPs are regulated under ERISA and COBRA.
Regardless of your business’s size or sector, there are plenty of reasons why you’ll want to offer an EAP. EAPs create win-wins for both you and your employees. Even though there are costs in offering EAPs, the costs are substantially outweighed by the benefits. Ultimately, we encourage you to seriously consider EAPs as part of your organization’s health care plan.