Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are useful . . . when employees use them. A survey on mental health benefits by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans shows over 90% of organizations offered an EAP in 2016. In the same survey, 49% of organizations reported the employee utilization rate of EAPs was 6% or less. An additional 23% did not know their utilization rate. Only 28% reported a rate of 7% or higher.
Meanwhile, over 30% of organizations reported depression is prevalent or very prevalent among their workers, and 22% said the same about anxiety. Around 20% said alcohol addiction is prevalent or very prevalent among employees. These are just a few of the issues an EAP could help with. If only they would make that call . . .
Why don’t more employees use your EAP? Maybe they are already receiving treatment outside of the EAP. Maybe they don’t want help or don’t believe they need it. Another reason? Fear of the unknown. This is where you can make a difference.
Tell them what will happen.
Making that first call is scary. Employees want to know exactly what to expect when they dial the EAP number. Here are some questions employees would like precise answers to before they reach out:
- Who will answer if I call? A live person or a recording?
- If a live person answers, how will they help me? Will they give me advice on my issue right then? Will they refer me to someone else? If so, will I have to make an in-person appointment? How soon will I be able to talk to someone who can directly help me with this issue?
- What information will they ask for? Name? Social security number? Insurance number? Can you please tell me one more time exactly where I can find my insurance number?
- Will my call be recorded? If so, who has access to the recording?
- If my spouse or dependent needs help, can they call the EAP themselves? Or do I need to call for them?
- What information does the EAP send my employer? Do they report how many people called per year and the conditions they called about?
- When can I call?
Give them a dry run.
Consider making a “sample” call, or two or three, to your EAP provider on speaker phone while your employees listen in during a group meeting. This could greatly increase their comfort level.
Get honest feedback.
After your EAP has been in place a while, consider asking for anonymous feedback from all employees. If they used the EAP, how was the experience? What could have made it better? Then meet with your EAP provider to talk about what’s working and what’s not.
Take the mystery out of your EAP. Let employees know exactly what to expect. Find out if it’s working the way they want. Then collaborate with your EAP provider to make improvements if necessary.
Lois Gleason, CEBS
Senior Information/Research Specialist at the International Foundation