The employee benefit you didn’t even know you have

Productivity is important to employers and finding ways to maximize your output at work is often a big part of their job. Because of this, employers know just how difficult it can be when the rest of your life spills over into your 9-5. Insomnia alone costs businesses more than $63 billion a year in lost productivity in the United States, giving your boss a big incentive to help you find a way to get more

When you factor in all of the lost production, wasted hours, and on-the-job injuries caused by financial woes, relationship problems, addiction issues, and other personal distractions it becomes abundantly clear that helping employees address their problems at home can reap big financial rewards for the company. Because of this, more than half of the employers in the U.S. offer an Employee Assistance Program to help you take care of personal problems before they become an issue at work.

What’s an Employee Assistance Program?

An Employee Assistance Program, more commonly known as an EAP, is a set of products, discounts, and services an employer can offer to their employees that is specifically designed to help them be a better,
more functional employee. This can range from small things like discounted memberships to the gym to larger, more complex services such as mental health benefits. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of different EAP plans for an employer group to choose from, so you will need to check with your HR department to verify whether or not you have a plan available and, if so, what the specific benefits are with your EAP.

While the purpose of an EAP is to help you be more productive at work, the benefits of the program are worth so much more than that. Your boss might only be paying for your gym membership because it
saves them money on sick days and health insurance claims, but being stronger and healthier is valuable for you whether or not it ever makes you a better employee.

What kind of problems can an EAP help you address?

Depending on what kind of Employee Assistance Program your employer chooses to offer, you could have access to multiple benefits through the program. The simplest versions of these plans typically offer discounts on services like gym memberships, weight loss plans, cleaning services, and financial programs designed to help you budget and save. They also usually have an online system where you can access dozens of articles on how to do everything from eating a more nutritious diet to preparing a will.

The next level of an EAP typically offers all of these things along with a phone line where you can call and speak with a trained professional who can help guide you through some more difficult issues. Generally speaking, they have people trained in legal, financial, and health related industries who can help guide you through your problem or refer you to a professional who can better assist you. The most comprehensive EAP plans offer one on one counseling or group therapy at no cost to the employee. For example, because an employee who needs mental health services might not have the easiest time accessing the benefit through their health plan (either due to a lack of providers in the plan or an insurmountable deductible) some EAP programs offer a handful of free visits with a mental health provider. Group or individual therapy is typically also made available for those people battling addiction or other medical issues that are difficult to address through health insurance alone.

Some Employee Assistance Programs even offer free or discounted child or elder care in addition to the other benefits provided by the plan. You’ll want to review the coverage through your employer carefully
to make sure you aren’t missing out on any amazing benefits!

Don’t have a problem? That’s okay, an EAP can still help!

Just because everything in your life is going well doesn’t mean there is no benefit to having an EAP.  Many Employee Assistance Programs offer benefits designed to help you move up the ladder at work, providing coaching in communication, conflict resolution, management techniques, and other skills to help you increase your value as an employee.

An EAP can also be helpful when everything in your life is on the right track. Buying a home? Your EAP might have resources to help you with that, with everything from articles that will help you better
understand the process to possible partnerships with financial institutions that can help you with your mortgage. Having a baby? Your EAP will have all sorts of information available and possibly have discounted rates for child care through certain providers.

The best part? EAP services are confidential.

By and large, EAP services are kept confidential from your employer. You don’t have to worry about your boss finding out you needed to see a mental health provider or that you are fighting addiction issues. Of course, because every company is different you will want to verify confidentiality with anyone you speak to about your EAP if that is important to you, but the vast majority of the time you don’t have to worry about your information being shared with your employer.

Whether you are starting a new job or have been with your company for years, asking your HR representative about your Employee Assistance Program is a smart move. If your employer says they don’t offer an EAP to their employees you might want to recommend they look into adding the benefit as a way of increasing productivity at the office. An EAP is good for both you and your boss, so don’t shove that brochure into the back of a desk drawer and forget about it, take advantage of the plan to change your life for the better!