Fairfield HR

Pros and Cons of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Businesses large and small are (quite rightly!) putting more and more focus into employee wellbeing.  Not only that, we’re seeing a decisive shift in legislation too that allows for more flexible and inclusive work practices.  One major question that business owners are asking, is “Shall we implement an Employee Assistance Program?” or EAP for short.

Firstly, what is an EAP?

They’re essentially additional features of an employment benefit package that focus primarily on wellbeing and stress relieving activities.  From gym memberships to free access to therapy, EAPs can vary considerably.  They’re ultimately designed to maximise performance and reduce absence through destressing and morale improvement.

Do they work?

According to a study by Federal Occupational Health, companies with EAP programs saw a reduction in absenteeism by a whopping 69.2%.  They also benefitted from a significant increase in employee engagement and a marked decrease in “workplace distress”.  In addition, workers often report a major reason for leaving a company can be a considered lack of support and understanding as well as negative work/life balance.  EAPs address this imbalance directly.  So, it’s clear that there are definitely positives to be taken from a good EAP.

Sounds perfect, right?

Not necessarily…

Firstly, EAPs can be rather expensive to implement.  It’s all very well you wanting to save money by increasing productivity and reducing absence… but it’s got to be worth it.  Not only do you have to consider the cost of the package you decide to choose, but also the cost in the time and resources to roll out the EAP and facilitate it for all generations of employees, which leads onto the second major consideration…

One size definitely doesnot fit all.  One employee may love a free gym pass for example, yet another may not care for it.  One worker may benefit greatly from a mindfulness meditation session, and another may consider it to be a waste of time.  Tech-savvy individuals may take up the offerings of an app or website that offers such perks, and those a little more Tech-unsavvy may be less bothered. The saying “you cannot please all of the people, all of the time” is very apt here.  So where does it stop?  Do you keep increasing your EAP package to appeal to every worker?  Keep investing time and effort into rolling it out successfully… or do you stick with one package and hope you get the return of investment you were trying to achieve?

I appreciate I’m sitting on the fence somewhat with this blog… but I want to give balance, as it’s very subjective in nature.  Were I to be giving advice, I’d say it’s essential to put in the research first.  Ask your workforce about wellbeing benefits and assess their emotional and wellbeing needs.  If you can settle on a programme that appeals to all (or a least the vast majority) of your employees, then at that point you may wish to investigate whether the outlay of an EAP will give you the desired effect for employee productivity/retention/wellbeing.  Or could you tweak other little practices to offer more simple emotional support, such as more flexible working, or a new kind of rewards programme that offers an extra day’s holiday for example.

Much food for thought.

Good luck!

More Blog Posts