Valérie Fernandez

By Valérie Fernandez

April 3, 2019


Employee assistance programs: tools for reducing absenteeism

Article revised on 3 April 2019

Sooner or later, we all have to deal with trials or difficulties that can impact our motivation for work or prevent us from giving our full potential. Unfortunately, your employees are not immune. For that reason, your organization would have everything to benefit from implementing an employee assistance program, if it hasn’t done so already… and from investing the resources necessary to build EAP awareness.

It can happen to anyone

Divorce or breakup, bereavement, family problems, stress, anxiety, interpersonal problems, financial problems… Many problems can affect employees to the point of causing them to be less efficient and even likely to take time off work. Some employees, when dealing with difficult situations in their personal or professional life, realize that their motivation is slipping away. Others take time off more often and may even go on disability. Others still continue to show up for work but be unable to carry out their duties normally. No one wins. Employees see their problems mounting and may even feel guilty about it. Their team members have to pick up the slack. The organization is unable to fully rely on the contribution of a staff member.

The employee assistance program: the extra boost that can make a difference

The costs associated with a decreased productivity are staggering! In Canada alone, companies lose $16.6 billion per year as a result of their employees’ mental health issues, according to a Monster Canada study. That’s an enormous sum! The good news is that employee assistance programs (EAPs)can become a good lever that supports organizations in managing absenteeism.

EAPs offer a wide range of advisory services to help an organization’s employees and their family members overcome problems, such as:

  • Marital problems
  • Family or parenting problems
  • Financial problems
  • Dependencies
  • Sleep problems
  • Violence
  • Interpersonal difficulties
  • Legal problems
  • Stress
  • Post-traumatic stress.

In most cases, the employee assistance program also offers support to managers. They receive access to a crisis intervention service and to an unlimited number of hours of telephone counselling. The goal of the counselling is to provide advice and coaching to managers in difficult situations.

These are only a few examples of possible interventions, since the program, by its very nature, is designed to smooth the path for employees and make it easier for them to find the right resource. When employees reach out to their EAP, they are asked to describe their situation to enable the program manager to identify the appropriate service. The advantage is that employees, who are often already exhausted and overwhelmed by the situation they’re going through, can simply dial a number to speak to someone and have an intervention plan proposed.

Tangible benefits

Of course, offering your employees an EAP represents an investment, but many significant benefits can be associated with such a decision. In many cases, in addition to limiting the effects on work, launching an EAP enables the organization offering it to:

  • Show that it cares about the health of its employees
  • Limit the costs associated with short- and long-term absences due to disability
  • Ensure the health of the organization
  • Maximize the engagement of its employees
  • Recruit staff more easily.

Success factors

An EAP has practically become a key element of employee benefit plans. However, if it is to achieve the desired effects, your EAP must meet certain criteria:

  1. It must include a sufficient number of hours of consultation with recognized professionals, i.e. 8 to 12 hours per problem treated.
  2. It must be easily accessible. Employees struggling with a difficult situation often have little time or energy to devote to navigating through complex processes.
  3. It must be confidential. Employees must have the assurance that their managers and co-workers will not know that they have reached out to the program.
  4. It must propose access to resources near the employee’s home or workplace.
  5. Employees need to know that it exists, what it includes and how to take advantage of it. It is definitely in your interest to send out reminders, from time to time, reminding employees that such a program is in place and is there for them, if they ever need it.

Support provided by La Capitale

La Capitale, through its VIVA program, proposes many ways to provide coaching to managers and their organization with regard to employee health and wellness. See what the program has to offer you!

Want to encourage your employees to adopt healthy lifestyle habits?

Discover the VIVA workplace health and wellness program.

Visit our website

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