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        4 min read

        Four Reasons Your Employees Don’t Use EAP Benefits

        Four Reasons Your Employees Don’t Use EAP Benefits

        On average, organizations spend over $15,000 per year on each employee experiencing mental health issues. Employers are constantly searching for mental health services to support employees in a complete, cost-friendly manner.

        Thankfully, an employee assistance program (EAP) can be a great option to provide support, combat workplace stress, and promote employee wellness. This not only helps with morale and wellbeing, it helps with your bottom line. According to the World Health Organization, every $1 organizations put into mental health programs, they get $4 back in increased productivity and better health outcomes. 

        EAPs fill in the gaps when employees are navigating through challenging life situations that affect both their personal and professional lives. And while EAPs boast many benefits, employees rarely take advantage of them.

        In this post, we’ll look at why EAPs are often underutilized and share tips on what you can do to improve adoption and strengthen employee wellness.

        What Is an EAP?

        An EAP can offer services employees and their families deal with a wide-array of issues including: relationship struggles, legal challenges, traumatic events, substance abuse, and financial concerns.

        Studies show EAP services are a great way to increase employee productivity, happiness, and wellness. They deliver a $6.47 return on investment for every $1 spent

        Additionally, Employee Benefits News reports that the average EAP counseling participant had “63 hours of lost productive time during the month before the start of counseling.” After EAP counseling services, productivity had been restored by more than three full workdays per month.

        It’s no wonder why they’re so common for US businesses looking to bolster employee well being, improve employee engagement, and combat employee turnover.

        Percentage of Companies that offer EAPs (by size)

        • 5,000+ employees: 97% 

        • 1,001-5,000 employees: 80%

        • 251–1,000 employees: 75%

        Why Employees Ignore Their EAP Program

        Despite their prominence, EAP utilization rates remain incredibly low. The National Business Group on Health found median utilization of EAPs is roughly 5.5%.

        Let’s examine a few reasons your employees and their family members may not be taking advantage of this great resource.

        1. LACK OF PROGRAM EDUCATION

        If you’ve never heard of an EAP before reading this post, you’re not alone. EAPs suffer from a lack of awareness among the general population. As a result, employees who aren’t familiar are less likely to use the service. 

        Here are a few tips to better inform employees about this benefit:

        Invest in education before launching an EAP

        If you’re thinking about introducing an EAP at your company, give employees a heads up ahead of time. You can host webinars or lunch-and-learns about the program and give everyone a sense of the support services that will be available.

        Ask your EAP provider to present at a company meeting

        The presentation should focus on topics that resonate with your employees. You could include ways EAPs help with: mental health management, elder care, loss of a family member, or legal issues.

        Create digital FAQs

        Proactively providing materials with answers to FAQs can help lessen the burden on your HR team. Employees can return to this resource before and after your EAP launches.

        2. LACK OF AWARENESS

        EAPs generally have an awareness problem. Even when an employer offers an EAP, most employees don’t know it exists. Consider the following to bolster awareness:

        Include EAPs as part of your open enrollment communications

        Don’t just lump the program in with your wellness benefit information in your open enrollment materials. Instead, explicitly state that your company has an EAP. Then explain what assistance programs are available.

        Promote year-round

        Just as you would with other benefits, be sure to promote the EAP throughout the year, not just during open enrollment season. That way, this employee resource can stay top-of-mind.

        Offer a training session for all managers

        Most managers are in the same boat as other employees: They don’t know that EAPs exist. However, if you create opportunities for company leaders to get familiar with the benefits, they can serve as internal advocates for the program. This can play a significant role in raising overall awareness among employees.

        3. MISUNDERSTANDING OF COST

        Another barrier to using EAPs is a general misconception or misunderstanding that employees have around surrounding costs. Since many EAP services are similar to services employees associate with healthcare, they might assume they’re responsible for a copay or deductible.

        This misconception could deter employees from seeking much-needed support, which can lead to a worsening of their situation. Be sure to reiterate that EAP counseling sessions are free to employees and are entirely covered by the employer.

        You can clarify cost concerns by:

        Separating EAP services from other healthcare benefits

        Keeping your EAP separate from your health insurance in internal communications, like your benefits booklet, makes it clear there aren’t any costs associated with this program.

        Highlighting free services

        EAP counselors are equipped to deal with categories of problems that many health plans don’t cover. Emphasize that EAPs are a great and convenient alternative to seeking expensive providers outside the program.

        4. LACK OF CENTRALIZED BENEFITS

        Convenience is key. So if your benefits information is scattered across multiple places, employees are unlikely to use it. Combat disorganization by making resources easily accessible in one location.

        Picking the right vendor is another crucial step for success with EAPs. Select a vendor that can easily integrate with your existing portals. Also, look for a user-friendly interface that won’t be difficult for your HR team to manage. 

        Achieving Success with EAPs

        An EAP can be a remarkable tool for your employees, and when your employees feel supported, everybody wins. According to Forbes, “happy employees are up to 20% more productive than unhappy employees.”

        Investing in a few steps to start — like educational sessions and easy-to-digest materials  — can lead to a serious uptick in usage. As a result, you’ll have employees who feel empowered to better manage their personal and professional lives. 

        Here are a few ways to learn more about how HealthJoy can help your organization centralize mental health offerings:

        Webinar: Championing Mental Health in the Workplace

        Book a demo

        This post was published in March 2022. It was updated June 2023.

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