An EAP Can Be a Small Business Owner’s Best Friend
If you are like most business owners today, you’ve had to make cuts, so you are short staffed and the staff you do have is working harder than ever. If your employees are having personal problems, you may not even know it until it begins to manifest itself in absenteeism, tardiness, and/or poor performance. Once that happens, you are forced to deal with it; and the outcomes may not be pleasant.
Unfortunately, the current economic environment exacerbates mental health issues, substance abuse issues, relationship issues, and financial issues, thus creating more havoc in the lives of the working population. Consequently, employees dealing with such issues can cost you, if they don’t have access to professional help.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are designed to provide no-cost support to employees who are experiencing difficulties in their personnel and/or work life. EAPs have professional counselors available to assist employees struggling with these issues. Should a counselor determine that an employee needs more intensive assistance, they will refer them on to specialists who can provide the needed help.
In her article posted on her blog Why Managers Need EAP, Kathy Greer, Founder and President of KGA, Inc. stresses that employees tend to bring their “whole selves” to work, which includes their personal problems. She adds that when the root of an employee’s poor performance stems from these issues, professional counseling may be needed to resolve the situation. An EAP provides these services.
According to a publication of the EASNA, “Research shows that employees who use EAPs often experience positive changes in their work performance, such as having fewer days late or absent; higher level of work productivity; and improved team relations.
Having an EAP in place allows the business owner/manager to concentrate on the business and not have to deal directly with an employee’s personal problems; and it offers the employees the benefit of free confidential access to professional counseling.
When an organization offers an EAP for their employees, usage of an EAP can be the result of self-referral or a referral from a supervisor depending on how much an employee’s problem affects their job performance. According to Julie Knudson, author of Treading Carefully on EAPs: Good Communication Helps Protect Clients From Exposure, published in the “Employee Benefit Advisor,” a recent study at a managed behavioral health care organization, published in the Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health showed that only 14% of EAP users were influenced by their employer or supervisor to use EAP resources. “The remaining majority of participants contacted EAPs on their own volition.”
Kathy Greer of KGA recommends that when a business owner/manager observes signs that an employee might be having personal problems, they should contact his/her EAP before approaching the employee. That way the EAP can provide guidance on how best to handle the situation and how to go about referring the employee to the EAP. This way the owner/supervisor can help their employee without getting directly involved with their problems.
If you already have an EAP make certain that all your employees know that it exists and know how to access it on their own. Instruct your managers and supervisors to use your EAP as a resource when dealing with employee issues and check with your EAP to see if they provide additional resources.
If you don’t have an EAP, do yourself and your employees a favor and look into it.