Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) is a specialized benefit in place to benefit both the employer and the employee. The essence of an EAP is that healthy employees are fully productive employees at work and in their personal and familial lives. Employee & Family Assistance Programs (EFAP) extends this benefit to the dependent family members of the employee. Given that organizations are made up of human capital, this specialized benefit is essential in maintaining healthy, productive and profitable organizations.
EAPs have been around since the early 1970’s. They have evolved quite substantially since those early years when they dealt primarily with alcohol and drug issues in the workplace. Today, EAPs deal with any work or personal issue that may interfere with an employee’s performance. In a much broader scope, an EAP can help with any human crisis that impacts an organization.
Life can be considered more complex today. In the last 40 years or so, as a society we have moved from a labour workforce to a knowledge workforce. We, knowledge workers, live in the current Information-Technology age where people can be literally on 24/7 – and that is not all because of work. The average person today takes in more information in one day than the average person in the early 1900s took in during their lifetime. So when stress mounts knowledge workers can feel it emotionally and mentally which can then impact their cognitive abilities, their overall health, their relationships, their finances, their community and their work productivity.
EAPs have also evolved in terms of the professionals providing the front line services. Today, skilled Master level Mental Health Clinicians deliver the bulk of the one-one-one counselling services. The key to success for these professionals is to understand the tenets of EAP and how to work within its parameters as well as acquiring an on-going comprehension of human behaviour in the workplace.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that by 2020, depression in the workplace is going to be the No. 2 disability behind heart disease. Much of this depression can be prevented with early intervention such as early access to quality EAP counselling. In summary a well-run Employee Assistance Program is an extremely good investment for both the employer and the employees.