Otherwise dedicated and productive employees can feel overwhelmed by domestic hardships, the death of a family member, mental or physical health issues, financial concerns, substance abuse, or severe work-related stress, which can interfere with their ability to perform effectively on the job. Therefore, a growing number of companies are adding employee assistance programs (EAPs) to their benefit packages to offer professional help. Compared with other types of benefits, EAPs may be relatively inexpensive.
Most EAP vendors allow employers to select the type and level of services best suited to the needs of their workforce. After contracting with an EAP provider, employers provide employees with a free, confidential hotline number they can call to talk to a licensed professional. The counselor helps the employee to develop a coping plan, which may include additional services, such as psychiatric or legal assistance, smoking cessation or weight loss programs, financial advice, substance abuse counseling, etc. Some EAPs also offer employees assistance in obtaining back-up or permanent care arrangements for children or elderly family members.
Many EAPs have staff psychologists available to meet with employees in person to discuss their concerns in greater depth, or instructors to conduct training on stress management, weight control, or other pertinent issues at the worksite. The supplemental wellness services offered by EAPs have been shown to reduce the number and duration of disability claims, and lessen the demand for more expensive forms of healthcare. Also, employees are less likely to miss work due to personal challenges.
When managers notice that an employee is struggling, recommending that the employee call the EAP hotline may be more appropriate and constructive than disciplining a valuable member of the workforce.
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