The times of the pandemic have accelerated the development of EAP programs. The number of work and personal life issues has sharply increased, leading to a higher demand for assistance among employees. Expectations regarding access to professional support have risen, prompting more companies to consider implementing systemic solutions in this area.
At the same time, many managers are questioning the economic sense of investing in EAP. Will it be another ‘nice to have’ benefit that marginally improves user satisfaction, or can concrete results be expected from implementing the program?
Assumption: Employees’ issues impact the outcomes of their work
We can only talk about the economic sense of EAP solutions if we accept the assumption that various life difficulties experienced by employees have a direct impact on their professional functioning.
From a psychological perspective, that’s exactly how it is. Since attention has a limited scope, when we direct it towards our own worries, it’s challenging for us to focus on tasks, we make mistakes, and our creativity declines. At the same time, negative thoughts tend to take the forefront because we have evolved to first deal with real or perceived threats.
In such a situation, an employer may seek additional ways to motivate or, conversely, resort to penalties. However, both methods will have limited and rather short-term effectiveness because neither of them eliminates the root cause and may even add additional pressure. It is better, therefore, to act at the source and offer assistance to the employee in dealing with the issues – calculations regarding the impact of EAP on productivity confirm this.
Not all benefits can be quantified, but we have a wealth of data showing tangible gains resulting from the implementation of the program.
EAP program and efficiency
Research on the effectiveness of EAP has been conducted for several decades in many countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and China. Consistently, these studies show that EAP reduces absenteeism, presenteeism (or ‘ineffective presence’), and work-related stress, while increasing levels of engagement and satisfaction.
- An American study on a sample of 60,000 employees who utilized EAP showed that the number of individuals reporting decreased productivity due to emotional issues dropped by 73% after receiving support. The number of unplanned absences and tardiness, estimated to be 2.37 days per month before assistance, decreased to 0.91 days. Meanwhile, the overall level of functioning index improved by 10%.
- In a study involving 24,000 EAP beneficiaries, with results collected over 9 years across 26 countries, a significant improvement in absence rates (by 17–28%), presenteeism (by 24–40%), and work-related stress (by 9–23%) was demonstrated.
- In yet another compelling study, it was measured that the number of “unproductive” hours per employee per week decreased from 9.22 to 2.70 with the support of EAP. Simultaneously, 72.7% of individuals reported an increase in concentration, 68.2% noted an improvement in the quality of their work, and 55.7% and 45.6%, respectively, experienced enhanced relationships with colleagues and supervisors.
Return on Investment in the EAP Program
EAP programs have been subjected to rigorous numerical analysis, akin to the financial assessments conducted by financial departments before each significant investment decision.
The estimated results are available for institutions such as America Online, Campbell Soup, Chevron, DuPont, Marsh & McLennan, McDonnell Douglas, NCR Corp, New York Telephone, the US Postal Service, the US Federal Government, General Motors, and United Airlines.
Where does such a high ROI come from?
The costs of the program are low and are far from even 1% of the overall employee expenditures. At the same time, EAP brings several fundamental benefits.
According to research, the program can reduce absenteeism across the company by 4.8–6.5%. This effect alone yields a positive return on investment, even considering only labor costs. However, an absent employee also means lost profits, the time of other individuals dedicated to handling absenteeism and reorganizing work, expenses related to replacements, the need to change plans, and the resulting stress.
The EAP program would be cost-effective even if it only influenced absenteeism, but it affects a wide range of issues:
Individual EAP services provide support to specific individuals, while group EAP allows influencing entire teams to better cope with changes and adversities.
EAP has the transformative power to shift the corporate culture in a desired direction. It strengthens the internal image of the company, enabling better handling of surprising, challenging situations. Moreover, it enhances the employer’s position in the job market.
Is it always this good?
Like any other tool, EAP must be used correctly to be effective.
If employees don’t utilize the program, it won’t fulfill its function. Therefore, the implementation method and integration of proposed solutions into the company culture are of immense importance.
Research indicates that ensuring the perception of support as accessible and confidential, promotional activities, and the involvement of management clearly translate into utilization indicators.
Expected indicators will vary depending on the type of services. Some individuals will seek help through Individual EAP, while Group EAP has a significantly broader impact.
So, does the EAP Program make economic sense? Pre-pandemic data shows that it does. We are convinced that today, even more so, as the quantity of problems has increased, so has their impact on work.