Why Traditional EAP’s Are Not Enough – A New Approach to Employee Wellness
Many organisations have a formal Employee Assistance Program in place. But why is it that they are not always used and why do we believe that they are not enough?
What is an EAP?
The Employee Assistance Professional Association of Australasia defines an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as “a work-based intervention program designed to enhance the emotional, mental and general psychological wellbeing of all employees and includes services for immediate family members.
The aim is to provide preventive and proactive interventions for the early detection, identification and/or resolution of both work and personal problems that may adversely affect performance and wellbeing. These problems and issues may include, but are not limited to, relationships, health, trauma, substance abuse, gambling and other addictions, financial problems, depression, anxiety disorders, psychiatric disorders, communication problems, legal and coping with change.”
However despite many organisations having an EAP, from our experience, they usually provide short term aid and are not widely adopted across the whole organisation. How often do we see so many of our peers or employees suffering but not actually using these programs?
Here are a few reasons why.
EAP’s are not always seen as ‘welcoming’ to everyone
Most Employee Assistance Programs, tend to be targeted for those already experiencing severe levels of stress or anxiety. There are a lot of people who need support that do not fall into this category. There are also a lot of people who are not aware of their issues all together.
EAP’s often provide a limited capped number of sessions
The symptoms of stress and anxiety are sometimes cyclic and cause problems that can lead to reduced motivation and efficacy for the individual, and negatively influence those around them, even with the best intentions. This pattern can be so ingrained without employees taking the time to analyse and pinpoint particular stressors and so, the condition becomes demoralising and hard to manage alone.
Therefore the process of healing is often a journey that could take weeks, months or even years. This requires ongoing support and the use of different modalities applied at the right times. Having a capped number of therapy or sessions is simply not a long term solution to one’s health.
Employees fear using the EAP services
It is a fear for those employees suffering with anxiety to utilise programs at this stage, as attending an EAP, can be seen as a vulnerability or weakness that may negatively affect their career. This should be especially considered if they are in positions of seniority or have high levels of responsibility with teams and clients.
A better approach towards EAP’s
So what do we do when employees are resistant to joining assistance programs? What if they don’t know they are available to begin with? How can we prevent them needing them in the first place?
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘prevention is better than cure’ but what does that mean in this context?
Exploring beyond EAP’s can be truly nourishing for a business, on an individualistic and holistic level. Creating a workplace culture that encourages and champions optimal health and wellbeing is paramount for healthy, happy and productive employees.
By attending wellness and mindful programs together in groups and/or teams, this ideology becomes shared and encouraged. It’s well documented that knowledge shared in the area of anxiety, the signs and symptoms, can help employees mitigate or remove their stress factors together as a team. When stress and/or anxiety become conditions that are chronic, a lot more time is required to reevaluate one’s triggers and this can mean longer periods of time off work for recovery.
When one employee needs to take an extended break, the workload also has to be distributed to other employees suddenly, that can lead to the same cycle and pattern. The more contented we are the more we tend to feel blissfully productive and ready to take on task after task.
In the 2019 StressPulse survey, they found that 61% of all employees are suffering from high levels of stress causing them fatigue / control issues, whilst 34% of employees have constant but manageable stress. This data shows that with EAP’s already in place, the majority of employees are still suffering from high stress levels, even to the point that their stress is causing work performance and efficacy issues.