Comprehensive and well supported employee assistance programs (EAPs) can be incredibly valuable for both employers and employees. They have been shown to reduce absenteeism, workers’ compensation claims, healthcare costs, and employee turnover. In addition, they have been shown to improve employee productivity, employee engagement, and employees’ feelings of satisfaction with their companies.1
The true value of an EAP is only seen when employees know about and use their EAP. Unfortunately, this is a large hurdle that many organizations struggle with. Industry-wide, the average utilization rate of EAPs is between 3% and 5%. Part of the struggle is that so many people are unaware they even have an EAP. While 93% of American employees have an EAP, only half of them know they do.2 If they are aware of their EAP, some employees do not use it because of stigma against accessing mental health and related work-life services.3
As valuable as EAPs are for employees and employers, how can organizations improve education about their EAP, increase utilization, and really see the rewards of having a robust and powerful EAP program? Communication is key. Here are 5 important tips to consider when preparing an EAP communication strategy.
Provide Benefits Onboarding and Regular Benefits Updates
HR leaders should be communicating frequently with honesty, transparency, and empathy. Onboarding is the first step in employee engagement and benefit education. Include a comprehensive review of your benefits during employee onboarding training, which has interactive and engaging workshops on your EAP. Along with training, a benefits guide that is comprehensive, kept up-to-date, and includes easy-to-use information on how to access and use your EAP is critical.
Benefits education does not stop at onboarding (and should not just happen once a year). If you supply small tidbits of information about EAP services throughout the year, you should see a more sustained use of your EAP. This can come in the form of regular EAP newsletters, emails, lunch-in-learns, staff meetings—just to name a few. If you keep this information quick and in bite-size chunks (just covering one small aspect of the EAP at a time), then your employees are more likely to stay engaged and retain the information.
Reduce EAP-Related Stigma
Stigma is a critical concern for many organizations. In many areas of the United States, there is a public view that having mental health conditions—or just needing help with mental health or work-life issues—means a person is weak, lazy, bad, dangerous, or somehow morally flawed. There is a strong generational divide about mental health stigma—although stigma has been declining over the past few years, there is still a strong hold in certain industries and demographics.4
To be clear, having a mental health condition (or struggling with personal or work-related problems) does NOT make a person weak, lazy, bad, dangerous, or otherwise morally-flawed. And organizations can help reduce EAP and mental health related stigma by assessing stigma with a stigma scale, supplying workplace intervention training about stigma, and communicating openly about mental health in the workplace.
Involve Managers and Leadership in EAP Use
Manager and leadership involvement is strongly related to stigma reduction efforts. Leaders can have a significant impact on reducing stigma and increasing the use of EAP and mental health services. We recommend management training to help your managers understand how language can either increase or decrease stigma, to increase awareness of mental health needs in the workplace, and to teach managers how to handle mental health emergencies when they occur.
Managers and leadership can also act as role models. If they have open and honest conversation about work-life and mental health topics, it helps normalize the topic with employees. And if leadership and managers can provide use cases of how they use EAP services successfully, that’s a strong way to improve employee use.
Make EAP Communication Actionable
Education about EAPs is helpful no matter what, but you should see higher use if you ensure that most communication and education about your EAP has an actionable next step. Instead of just providing a long list of facts about the EAP program, create clear and concrete goals at the end of your communication. Examples include “Sign up for this work-life training.” “Check in with your member portal here.” “Take this quick stress management course.” “See what free legal resources are available.” “Try out this nutrition tool.”
Rely on Your EAP Provider for Communication Resources
Last, know that you should not have to figure out a communication strategy and communication resources alone. Your EAP provider should have robust tools and resources to help make communication easy and successful. At Uprise Health, we develop comprehensive resources tailored to help organizations communicate how Uprise Health services can help their employees. These include newsletters, email templates, onboarding toolkits, service flyers, trainings, and more. Learn more about the digitally-enabled EAP program we offer or contact us with any questions you have.