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Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and Wellness Programs - The difference between problem-solving and prevention

EAP's have been around since at least the 1940's and were originally focused on helping employees with alcohol problems. Through the years these programs evolved and expanded to also include assisting employees with mental and relational issues. Today it is estimated that 97% of companies with more than 5,000 employees, 80% of companies with 1,001-5,000 employees and 75% of companies with 251-1,000 employees offer an EAP. However, these programs go heavily unused for a variety of reasons. This leads many companies to search for alternative solutions like wellness programs. But this should not be an either-or situation. Both services serve specific purposes and resonate with your employees on different levels.

First, we must fully understand the purpose of each program. EAP's are designed to help employees with existing issues. These programs provide counseling services for topics such as drug and alcohol abuse, relational problems and mental health issues. By providing counseling and helping employees overcome their problems, EAP's succeed in alleviating an employee's stress to improve the overall productivity and quality of the employee's work. However, employees must first come to terms with the fact that they have a problem for which they need to seek assistance. This is a major hurdle to overcome and it unfortunately creates a stigma about EAP programs. The idea most employees have is that EAP's are for people with problems, and no one likes to admit they have a problem they cannot solve on their own.

Conversely, wellness programs are traditionally developed as a way to help employees achieve specific goals. Everyone has something they want to achieve. We all have goals, which is why wellness programs tend to get better employee engagement than most EAP's. Wellness programs focus on preventing issues before they arise. If adopted and implemented correctly, you can assist your employees with a wide range of issues which in turn decreases the necessity of an EAP. For example, by helping employees identify stressors in their life and teach them healthy stress relieving techniques they are less likely to turn to drugs and alcohol as a method to reduce stress and anxiety.

There are many conflicting studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of an EAP versus a wellness program. The general consensus is that wellness programs actually perform better at improving employee productivity, employee health and reducing employee turnover rates. One major reason that wellness programs outperform EAP's is because more employees are likely to engage in a wellness program than utilize an EAP. However, due to cost, most employers choose to offer an EAP program instead of a wellness program despite their effectiveness. EAP's cost anywhere from $10-$100/employee per year. Where according to a study by BenefitsPro, the average cost of a wellness program is $549/employee per year.

So which program should your company offer? The answer is both. A wellness program is a great tool in making your employees feel valued by the company, improving employee health and improving their overall productivity. Despite the cost of a wellness program, research shows a 1:3 ROI in 3-5 years. EAP's also play an important role for your employees that are already struggling with an addiction, relational or mental health issue. EAP's provide much needed, specific counseling to address very serious issues, while wellness programs tend to offer more generalized solutions and preventative measures.

If you are looking for a program to offer to your employees, the Life Force Method strikes a balance between an EAP and traditional wellness programming. The Life Force Method focuses on 7 areas of health (Life Forces) which are;

  • Purpose (Existential Health) - What drives a person to perform at their best
  • Mental Health - Managing stress through healthy effective habits
  • Environmental Health - Making sure surroundings are free from stressful triggers and promote productivity
  • Relational Health - Having a strong support network and learning to communicate effectively
  • Emotional Health - Understanding emotional triggers and regaining control
  • Physical Health - Boosting immunity and promoting preventive care measures
  • Financial Health - Developing a plan to reduce stress and achieve life goals

In addition to our own health coaching team we have partnered with other business that we refer to that include substance abuse counseling, financial planning, executive coaching and more. To learn more about the Life Force Method and how it can help your company achieve their goals and improve employee satisfaction, contact us at [email protected].


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