Employees Underutilizing Employee Assistance Programs

August 12, 2015

Erin Tatar, national leader of Towers Watson’s health management practice, believes that Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are chronically underutilized by employees, and given most employers’ goal of retaining their top talent, that can be a problem.

In a recent interview with Human Resource Executive, Tatar said, “In this talent market, especially for knowledge workers, the cost of one high performer walking out the door is enormous… and so many people report stress as the reason that they are leaving their job.”

According to a 2013-2014 study jointly sponsored by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health, just 5% of employees reported making use of EAP services for stress. In fact, when employees were asked where they go for help managing stress, “employer-provided EAP wasn’t even in the top 5 of the list,” said Tatar.

Tatar notes that obstacles to using EAP services include stigma associated with seeking help with mental health issues, as well as fear of repercussions for missing work. However, employers, and specifically, Human Resource professionals, can help employees by identifying the sources of stress for employees, developing an action plan, embracing technology, and adequately communicating the program so employees are aware of what it offers. While these changes are not unique to EAP, this area of benefits has the most to gain from them.

Looking ahead, Tatar says there are three areas poised to improve the use of EAP services:

  • Digital/mobile access. Anytime, anywhere access to services reduces barriers, and addresses privacy and security concerns, allowing employees to “opt in” to reporting their issues.
  • Telemedicine: Telemedicine is increasingly being used by employers to help their employees address behavioral health issues. In many cases, it is more cost effective for employers, and for employees, reduces the stigma and increases convenience.
  • Wellness/wellbeing programs: With stress as the #1 lifestyle risk globally, wellness and wellbeing programs are becoming part of the broader employee value proposition (EVP). Many employers are redefining wellness to encompasses emotional — not just physical — wellbeing.

To see the entire article in Human Resource Executive, click here.

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