Column: What is an Employee Assistance Program?

By Larry Moliterno

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Every once in a while, business owners ask me if they should start an employee assistance program. The truth is, though, that many don’t know what one is. And even fewer recognize that their company could benefit from an EAP.

While these programs are geared toward helping individual employees, the whole company will feel the benefits.

A recent study shows that every single day, one in five employees is negatively affected by a personal issue such as addiction, grief, divorce, caregiving, parenthood, stress or depression.

Take a minute to think about that. In a conference room full of 25 employees, five are dealing with a situation at home that can be hard to keep away from the workplace.

Distraction, absenteeism and negative attitudes are by-products of these stressors that cost an organization thousands of dollars when those employees don’t receive help.

An EAP program offers an opportunity to support those employees and their families. It’s an avenue for staff to handle personal problems – confidentially – and ultimately improve their well-being at home and prevent burnout at work.

Employee assistance programs typically include short-term, confidential counseling to address life stressors. And while some companies see HR as a replacement for an EAP, employees often aren’t entirely transparent with in-house leadership when it comes to personal concerns. That is not the case with an EAP. With one in place, employees won’t feel judged by their company, supervisors or co-workers when they seek help.

Unfortunately, while many companies need an EAP, few have one. It’s easy to see why professionals like first responders, the military, law enforcement and emergency health care workers need an EAP. But every job in every industry can feel the benefits.

In times of grief and unexpected events (such as death, company accidents and other emergencies), an EAP partners with the company to provide counseling. They help staff members process and understand what happened and sort out feelings and emotions.

All workplaces are vulnerable to interpersonal conflicts that affect emotional health and work performance, too. EAP counselors act as mediators, assisting all parties in understanding their emotions and reaching a resolution.

Individual circumstances and broader situations can all be addressed with an EAP.

Companies with EAPs realize other major benefits that ultimately boost the bottom line.

Happier employees provide better productivity, reduced absenteeism, fewer workplace accidents, lower
employee turnover (and ultimately,
reduced recruitment costs), lower health care costs, and a healthier workforce.

Investment in a monthly EAP program or one-time advisement fees is minimal compared to the costs of an unhealthy staff.

Meridian HealthCare provides local EAP care with licensed therapists for recurring and one-time appointments.

We live in your community and empathize with local events and stressors. We aren’t an out-of-town organization that comes in reactively after a crisis. We’re available whenever your workforce needs us.

Larry Moliterno is CEO of Meridian Healthcare.