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You Down With EAP? Yeah You Know Me: Tips From an HR Expert

23 September
by Britt Duncan
4 minute read

Hi, it’s your fave HR lady here to tell you why employee assistance programs (EAPs, for short) are one of the things that keeps me in love with human resources and why you should champion the program for your employees.

I think it’s easy to say that most people assume that HR folks spend our days hiring and firing people. Well, they’re not wrong. Onboarding and offboarding are most definitely essential functions of HR. But, that’s not the sum of what we do.

We resource humans. Kidding, sort of.

The HR community has a multitude of responsibilities and roles in HR run the gamut from talent acquisition to compensation analysis to benefits administration to organization effectiveness to offboarding. As a generalist who dabbles in recruiting, I get to have a hand in each of those areas or have some amazing peers who specialize in these sectors to help a sister out.

Help. That’s the Key With EAP.

Every single person in human resources is a human providing support to other humans. I’ll say it again. Every single person in human resources is a human providing support to other humans.

If your story is anything like mine, then you joined the HR world because you wanted to help people. If that’s not the case, then you may be in the wrong business. Because we helpers are willing to help when others aren’t or can’t. That’s where the magic of EAP starts.

In my office you will find a stack of EAP flyers next to the table and chairs where I have most conversations with people visiting me. People needing help.

Strategically hanging on my cubicle wall next to a box of tissues, candy jar full of butterscotch, and my “chill-pill” stress ball. I mean, let’s be honest; most employees are coming to HR for guidance, support, coaching, and/or relief. Help.

So, I pull up my chair and I listen. For however long that takes. If there are solutions such as FMLA, STD, LTD, or leave of absence then we explore those. But, sometimes people are just in need of some assistance to get them through a life event or a contentious period. That’s where EAP comes in.

EAP: A Refresher

Employee assistance programs are designed to provide confidential, no-cost support and guidance to employees of participating organizations.

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As employers, we would foot the bill to allow our employees 24/7/365 access to navigate hurdles and circumstances that may otherwise impede their success at work.

For example, from a financial perspective, EAP can lend a helping hand and provide insights about how to navigate budgeting when debt or bankruptcy may be in the picture. Or, you can talk to someone about financing life changes like retirement, relocation, or purchasing a home.

Someone is also available to talk about those other things taking up space on your plate like looking for quality care for a child, loved one, or a fur baby.

Online support is a major bonus for the program. It improves access and allows for the user to absorb the information in their most comfortable mode. Those who identify as auditory learners may be able to learn more about financial resources or work-life solutions through podcasts and videos.

Those who thrive with visual learning can utilize videos in addition to slideshows and on-demand solutions. All those tools can offer variety to kinesthetic learners by providing interactive activities that can reinforce the materials. But, wait. There’s more.

EAP and Mental Health

Stress. Grief. Loss. Sadness. Depression. Anxiety. Relationships. Conflicts. These are some of the life adjustments that every human is impacted by at some point.

Life happens to all of us regardless of our generational code, protected status, or position. HR pros, we must understand this; it is imperative. We are helping to guide and make decisions that impact lives. You can’t expect results in isolation of the real world and the life events that it brings.

Additionally, we ourselves are not immune.

Unless you’ve been beamed up and sent back before finishing this article, you’re human, too. EAP can provide confidential emotional support by connecting you with free counseling sessions with a provider of your choice within the network. Just like when someone comes your office, the clinician will ask some initial screening questions when you call in to make sure you aren’t in immediate danger to yourself or others.

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Then, the interactive dialogue continues to discover the issue(s) you need help with. With the hardest part being out of the way, it is time to connect with a clinician. Insurance isn’t an issue as you will be provided a code to give the office for billing. When people are meeting with you at their most vulnerable time, here are the highlights that you should make sure to hit: no cost to you, completely confidential, and support from a counselor of your choice that you are comfortable with.

Life Happens to All of Us: Let's Act Like It

When life is happening, we’re not always comfortable. It can be uncomfortable as a HR pro to even want to discuss EAP. It can be uncomfortable as a human to ask for help.

I get it.

Which is why we must change the narrative and sing from the mountaintops that EAP is our jam! When we are recruiting new talent, we should give our highlights during our spiel on benefits. When we are doing new hire orientation, we should boast about EAP again along with the usual contenders: medical, dental, vision, 401(k). When we are working with our client groups, we should provide EAP material and highlights whenever it seems appropriate.

When we have life adjustments come our way, we should recognize we cannot pour from any empty cup. Time for that EAP, my friend. Whenever someone needs help, let EAP help.

Know your program offerings inside and out. Don’t have one? Work with your decision-makers on determining what program may be most effective for your organization.

Okay, human resourcers. As you progress through the 52 weeks of the year, remember that you and your employees will collectively experience millions of life adjustments. Business may be the bottom dollar, but the wellness of our employees is the bottom line. Because we are humans providing support to other humans. And EAP is here to help.

Britt Duncan is an HR generalist and recruiting enthusiast who’s on a mission to make the world a better place. Britt graduated from William Jewell and holds an aPHR certification.