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Employee Assistance Programs – Why They are Under Utilized

If you are like most HR professionals or business owners, you recognize the benefits and true value of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). It is for this reason you are paying for those services and do your best in communicating them to your employees. However, despite your best efforts your EAP goes primarily unused. Here are the Top three (3) reasons why your employees do not use your EAP.

  • EAP Stigma – EAP’s were originally developed to assist employees with alcoholism. Over the years EAP’s expanded to providing other services such as mental health and relationship counseling. Many have gone as far as offering wellness programs for additional cost. However, the stigma that these are for people with “problems” hasn’t gone away. Asking for help and admitting you have an issue is difficult for anyone. Overcoming this stigma is a difficult task for employers.
  • Lack of Knowledge – As previously stated a lot of EAP’s have expanded their services to offer wellness programs, legal services like drafting wills and financial resources to help with retirement planning. It is surprising all the services your EAP may offer, unfortunately this information does not seem to be communicated effectively and employees either do not know or have forgotten the benefits these programs offer.
  • Lack of Confidentiality – Because the employer is paying for these services many employees believe that their information will be shared with their HR Representatives. All information is kept strictly confidential but the fear remains that if an employee reaches out to an EAP provider for help with a serious issue like substance abuse, this information will be reported back to their HR Representative, Manager or co-workers.

So, the question is how do we overcome these issues? There is a commonality between all three: communication. It is all about effectively communicating these services to your employees. Here are three ways to improve communications and utilization.

  • Post flyers and information about EAP services in common areas like break rooms and in bathrooms. Somewhere where employees might be able to get the information without making it obvious. If they have to go to HR to get the information, they will be less likely to use it and this will only perpetuate the issue with confidentiality concerns.
  • Offer regular trainings on the services provided. If possible, have the service provider come into the office or host a virtual training. Try to keep HR from providing all the trainings and communications so employees can gain confidence that the EAP provider is working more for them than the company.
  • Highlight a different service offering each month. Post about the different services offered by your EAP each month. For example, in January you can email and post flyers about the EAP’s wellness programming to help employees with their New Years Resolutions. In February you can email your employees and post flyers about the financial services offered by your EAP. Financial services in February are a good match because this is about the time most people are paying back from Holiday expenditures. Try to match months with services you think would be beneficial for the time.

EAP’s can be a great offering for employees but only if they are utilized. Overcoming the stigma and other issues is a difficult task which is why many companies are now also partnering with separate wellness providers like Life Force Wellness. For more information on the difference between wellness programs and EAP’s check out this blog

If you have any questions or need more assistance in getting your employees to engage in your wellness initiatives, contact us at [email protected].


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