An Avenue to Solve Personal Problems for Employees

An Avenue to Solve Personal Problems for Employees

Workers today report significant levels of stress, citing low salaries, lack of opportunities for advancement, and heavy workloads as major contributing factors.

According to a recent study by the American Psychological Association, two-thirds of adults in the United States say that their work causes them stress, and one-third of respondents cite their work as a source of chronic stress. Despite the efforts of many organizations to support employees, only 52 percent of employees surveyed believe their employers value a healthy work-life balance.

In addition to work-related stress, employees also face personal challenges, such as family and relationship problems, financial setbacks, physical illness, substance abuse, and emotional problems such as depression, anxiety and grief. All of these can interfere with safety and productivity at work. Even employees who have a family member suffering from these kinds of problems may experience a drop-off in performance or miss work.

For employers, the financial impact of workers’ personal problems can be staggering. Accounting for absenteeism, reduced productivity, accidents, and increased health care costs, employee substance abuse and addiction is estimated to cost between $33 billion and $68 billion per year nationwide. The cost of depression in the workplace is as high as $51 billion a year.

What can employers do to help employees get the help they need? In part one of this series, I explained how Employee Assistance Programs can help supervisors and managers address employee problems in the workplace.

In this article, I will explain how employees can access help directly from an EAP to achieve a better work/life balance – and ultimately be more productive on the job.

When personal problems arise, employees may not know where to turn for help, and in many cases they may be reluctant to go to a supervisor. An EAP offers confidential professional counseling services free of charge to employees and household members to help them solve problems before they become overwhelming. By making one phone call to the EAP, employees can set up an appointment with an experienced counselor who has specialized training in work/life issues. EAPs work closely with employers to promote their services, so employees know how to get help as soon as the need arises. Employers use many methods to inform employees about these services and how to access them, including employee orientations, payroll stuffers, web-based information, and on-site trainings.

Most EAPs provide three to six counseling sessions for employees and household members, per problem, per year. Research shows that brief counseling interventions with an experienced mental health professional can help resolve the majority of issues. If more help is needed, the EAP counselor can help the employee find it.

Employee Assistance Programs also provide work/life services to assist employees in addressing challenging life circumstances. Employees can receive a referral to prescreened professionals for legal, financial, childcare, eldercare and other services. EAPs work to both help resolve difficult situations and reduce the stress associated with them. In the face of a legal problem, for example, the employee could make one call to the EAP to receive both a referral to a legal professional and access to a counselor who can help the employee manage the stress.

Similarly, if an employee needs help with eldercare or other services for a loved one, the EAP will help identify and make contact with needed resources, but will also provide education and support for the employee in managing these challenging life transitions.

Employee Assistance Programs also partner with employers to help employees achieve wellness goals, such as losing weight, quitting smoking, exercising more, and better managing stress. Counselors can help employees set realistic goals and provide support to reach them.

Successful workplaces recognize that employees need assistance and resources to manage the challenges they face at work and at home. Employee Assistance professionals are experts in helping employees achieve work-life balance. Partnering with an EAP provides a valuable return on investment to both the bottom line of the business and in employees’ health and wellbeing, which are high priorities in today’s workplace.