A Guide to Better Workplace Mental Health and Employee Assistance Programs
Gain a better understanding of workplace health and why it matters.
Disclaimer: This article contains guidelines or advice not intended to self-diagnose or treat. No content should be used as a substitute for direct advice from a qualified professional such as your doctor or mental health professional. Please reach out for support from a certified professional related to the symptoms you may be experiencing.
If you are in crisis and require immediate support, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. Alternately, please contact the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566 (24/7). For residents of Québec, call 1 866 APPELLE (1 866 277-3553).
Today’s workforce is changing. In the years since the COVID-19 pandemic, the workplace as we knew it has shifted into new territory, and the demand for better health and wellness care is finally being heard.
Many organizations across industries are working hard to ensure employees have the tools and resources they need to manage life and career challenges. In a 2022-2023 Global Wellbeing Survey conducted by Aon, it appeared that 83 percent of global employers say they have an employee well-being strategy, which is up significantly from 55 per cent in 2020. Having a plan is one step, but executing your approach to better care for all requires support from an employee assistance program built for the modern workplace.
In this mini guide, we’ll explain an employee assistance program and how it works, including how to find a provider, implementation tips and details about what to expect.
What is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?
An employee assistance program (EAP), which may also be referred to as an employee and family assistance program (EFAP), is a health and wellness benefits program funded by an employer to support the well-being of employees and their dependents. The services offered through an EAP might vary but generally include employer-sponsored counselling hours outside of what's provided through regular insurance. Most EAP programming includes other health and wellness services, such as life and career coaching, legal and financial advisory, and specialized clinical services. Many providers offer customizable programming options to help fit the unique needs of any organization.
Learn more: What is an employee assistance program (EAP)?
What is the purpose of an EAP?
From the employee perspective, an EAP aims to offer a selection of mental health services that help them prevent, manage, and overcome personal life challenges and work-related issues that may affect their job performance. For human resources (HR) leaders and key decision-makers, an EAP is an effective way to help build, support and execute an organization's mental health strategy. The right EAP can provide HR leaders with the tools to respond better to changing dynamics within the organization while supporting recruitment, retention and the overall well-being of the workforce.
What are the benefits of an EAP?
A report by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) determined that the cost of mental illnesses to the Canadian economy is estimated at over $50 billion annually, with more than $6 billion of that stemming from losses in workplace productivity. Additionally, in Canada, mental health is one of the leading causes of disability in the workplace. In 2022, more than a third of Canadian employer-sponsored benefits plan claims were due to mental health. With this in mind, investing in an effective EAP could help HR leaders spot and manage declining emotional and physical health — and encourage employees to prioritize their well-being with professional resources and support. The result is a more positive work environment that allows companies to attract and retain top talent.
The following are some of the most significant benefits organizations experience after introducing an EAP:
- Improved work performance and motivation
- Higher retention rates
- More engaged and healthy employees
- Lower absenteeism
- Lower disability costs
- Better ability to attract top talent
Learn more: What are the advantages of employee assistance programs (EAP)?
What are some of the common issues that EAPs can address?
The network of practitioners available through an EAP should be able to provide counselling services that can support employees through any mental health-related concern, including common concerns like stress management, burnout, anxiety, depression, grief, addiction, workplace stress and other work-related issues.
However, the path to getting well looks different for everyone. HR professionals and decision-makers must select an EAP provider that offers a holistic approach to whole health, allowing employees to access additional wellness services beyond individual and couples counselling. Some other common issues EAPs help resolve include (but are not limited to):
- Legal issues
- Stress management
- Anxiety and depression
- Substance use and addiction
- Workplace burnout and conflict
- Illness and disease management
- Preventative health and well-being
- Budgeting, investing and retirement
- Family planning, parenting and eldercare
- Credit management, tax planning and more
Learn more: What issues can be addressed with an employee assistance program?
What should I look for in a good employee assistance program?
Choosing a mental health and wellness provider can be daunting for busy organizational leaders. After all, not all EAPs are the same, and there are many options to choose from. Understanding the fundamental differences between traditional and modern EAPs can be helpful when determining what to look for in an EAP provider.
Traditional employee assistance programs
Traditional EAPs force employees to use confusing 1-800 numbers, ultimately decreasing awareness and uptake. They also include long wait times and a fragmented network and system, leaving folks more frustrated than supported. The quality of care is often impacted by a band-aid approach that stops care once a crisis is “solved” and benefits are no longer available.
Modern employee assistance programs
A modern EAP takes a digital-first approach to ensure employees can access the care they need quickly and effectively, often allowing employees to secure an appointment within 24-72 hours of inquiry. A more comprehensive network of diverse practitioners also ensures employees can find the right fit for their needs. Modern EAPs often focus on continuity of care, which helps folks continue short- and long-term wellness support.
The following are some other elements HR leaders should look for before investing in an EAP to achieve the highest return on investment:
- A flexible online booking system to allow employees to book appointments that suit their schedule with ease.
- An intuitive and user-friendly interface ensures employees can find the support they need when needed.
- Transparent and in-depth reporting on key metrics to evaluate the success of an EAP and help HR leaders build their mental health strategy.
- A simplified onboarding process that makes EAP integration easy.
- An EAP promotion plan to assist with immediate uptake of the programs and services offered.
- A wide range of customizable services that provide support within 24-72 hours.
How do I know if an EAP is effective?
Research is the best way to determine if an EAP has a good reputation. Consider asking providers for user testimonials, as this will give insight into the effectiveness of an EAP and the providers' client relationships. Business decision-makers can also evaluate an EAPs track record by asking for clinical improvement rates that indicate how quickly well-being symptoms decrease after accessing the employee assistance program.
Communication is crucial in deciding which EAP offering is best for your organization. A well-rounded EAP provider is ready to collaborate with HR leaders to support a better well-being strategy that addresses emerging workplace wellness issues or acute health crises from implementation to execution.
Learn more: How to choose the best employee assistance program provider
How do you introduce an EAP to employees?
Employee engagement is key to the success of any benefits package. The right EAP provider will be ready to assist an organization with implementing, onboarding and promoting their programs and services. Below are a few recommendations for an impactful implementation plan that helps get your wellness program up and running quickly.
Create an implementation strategy
Determine what’s required to ensure a seamless EAP implementation for your employees. Providers should be equipped to offer the desired materials and resources to support your ideal implementation strategy.
Offer employee onboarding
Help your team navigate the platform with easy-to-use onboarding material from the EAP providers of your choosing. Some providers may also offer human resources and leadership training for those who need it.
Promote ongoing wellness resources
Secure promo materials and additional marketing support, such as a newsletter, to help employees stay updated with available health services and wellness resources.
Add services as needed
Improve employee needs by partnering with an EAP account management team to secure additional services and offerings. These folks are available to understand the needs of your unique workforce and can recommend solutions across care needs.
Learn more: How to implement an EAP in the modern workplace
The Inkblot EAP is committed to delivering better health outcomes
The future of EAPs shows the promise of many positive changes that will allow for improved utilization rates, more accessible access to the right care, and better health outcomes. The Inkblot EAP is committed to continuous improvement as we keep our pulse on the ever-changing needs of the modern workplace and continue to grow our outcome-based programming to help you achieve higher engagement rates, comprehensive care and better wellness results.
Book a demo today to learn how Inkblot's employee assistance program can transform your team's well-being.