Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): a solution for well-being


A recent study conducted by the Arete Human Resources firm has demonstrated the benefits of Employee Assistance Programs faced with the implications of mental health disorders in the workplace. The use of these consultation services would indeed have a positive impact on employee well-being, company productivity and the public health system.



ScreenHunter_735-Feb-28-09-48-1.jpgOver their lifetimes, 20% of Canadians will experience a mental health problem, the leading cause of long-term disability and main cause of short-term disability, workplace conflicts  and  absenteeism. As a result, during an average work week, over 500,000 workers in the country will not go to work because of a mental disorder. The investigation on the overall value of a Canadian Employee Assistance Program examined the repercussions both economically and socially of the challenges that mental health represents and the role that the EAPs can play to assist the different stakeholders in dealing with these problems.


Consultation services in the service of quality of life


At the present time, no less than one Canadian in five suffer under the burden of stress, anxiety or depression. EAPs, services for consultation and guidance, are designed precisely to help employees to understand or overcome their personal problems. They offer a wide of services and call on professionals or bodies that provide diversified care in several areas: workplace stress, harassment, financial or legal problems, substance abuse… In most cases, a phone number is posted or distributed to staff members. This number generally is that of a referring agent who then determines the nature of the problem and sends the person to the appropriate resource.


For the needs of the study, several dozen Canadians volunteered to be followed for three months. Before enrolling in an EAP, most participants reported problems ranging from mild to severe. Three months after ending the consultation program, less than 32% of them felt the same types of concerns. According to Peter Stratton, head of human resources for Western Financial Group, implementing an employee assistance program plays an important role in employee’s quality of life, which was also found in last year’s floods in Alberta, he recalls.


Economic benefits for employers


In addition, according to Allan Stordy, president of Arete Human Resources, these programs would also be a real cost savings for employers and for the publicly funded the health care system. Prior to their access to the EAP, 66% of participants in the study had performance problems resulting in an average economic loss of $1,063 for the employer during the last four weeks. At the organizational level, workplace productivity was suboptimal, which translated into an average annual loss per participant of close to $13,000 associated with absenteeism and presenteeism (employees who are on the job but unproductive). This is, in other words, the fact of an employee being at work while his physical or mental health does not enable him to work. Following the use of EAP services, the study noted an overall reduction of 74% of costs associated with prior performance. In parallel, a significant reduction in the number of visits health professionals of the public health system was observed.


While barely 50% of Canadians will dare to talk with a friend or colleague about mental health problems affecting a member of their family 72% of them won’t hesitate to openly discuss a diagnosis of cancer, for example. Finally, it is estimated that mental health problems will cost $198 billion in lost productivity for Canadian companies over the next 30 years. Maintaining good mental health is thus becoming as important as preserving good physical health. Improving the quality of life, reducing absenteeism, reducing costs for employers… EAPs are an alternative that are still too unknown to the general public, the survey concludes.


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