For decades, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) have provided employees with various health and wellness resources intended to guide them to be happier and more productive. These programs are defined as “free and confidential access to counselling for employees and dependents”, and many companies have opted into these specialized services since the 1940s. EAPs are an investment that pays off in the long run: employees who use the program’s resources tend to be more motivated at work and, in turn, employers see elevated results in the workplace.
If you’re in the market for a new Employee Assistance Program or your current one is underperforming, there’s a lot to consider before deciding which provider to choose. To help ease you through that process, we’ve provided a breakdown below of which features you should look out for when browsing for your EAP.
Easy, convenient access to essential wellness services
A standard EAP will include the following essential counselling services: mental health; family & relationships; child & elder care; financial and legal services; work & career; critical incident response. While all employee assistance programs provide more or less similar services, what differentiates an innovative, modern option from a traditional one is how you access it.
Keep an eye out for programs with virtual access to their services (i.e. mobile app) for maximized efficiency and convenience. Traditional EAPs tend to favour in-person counselling or offer support through a 1-800 toll number, which aren’t convenient options when you’re under stress and seeking immediate support.
Stick with an EAP that promotes virtual services – your employees will thank you. It’s important that whichever provider and platform you choose is approachable and accessible for all of your employees, regardless of how tech-savvy they are.
Guaranteed consultation within 24 hours
Generally, when it comes to seeking treatment for either a health concern or other wellness support, one of the main frustrations we often hear is regarding the extended wait times. Make sure to choose an EAP that can guarantee appointments within 24 hours, so that employees can get the support they need when they need it. After all, if an employee is distressed and wants to speak with someone about an issue, they deserve access to counselling from wherever they are, as soon as possible.
Multidisciplinary virtual care team
We recommend looking for an EAP provider that works mainly with an in-house team of professionals rather than relying on an external professional network. Why? An internal professional care network makes it possible to better control the quality, reliability and responsiveness of support services. For example, each professional (no matter their discipline) adheres to the same service-level agreement (SLA) and quality procedures as opposed to each following their own.
Coordinated care experience
The goal of counselling sessions is to quickly help an employee resolve their issue, but it’s possible that an employee might require additional support beyond the limited number of sessions included with your EAP. Choose a provider that offers the option for employees to continue with the same counsellor to maintain the therapeutic patient-professional link.
Moreover, certain issues may require support from more than one type of professional. For example in the case of a divorce, the employee might need help managing stress as well as needing legal advice. Accessing these services from a single point of contact is ideal. It’s even better if a care coordinator can help the employee book the necessary appointments and enable medical record sharing amongst medical professionals involved in the same case.
Follow-ups are also an important part of continuity of care as they ultimately help to drive positive outcomes and can help to keep the employee engaged and motivated to get better. A follow-up after each consultation helps ensure the support and professional are a good fit for the employee’s individual needs, so he/she benefits from each session.
Transparency & privacy
You’re investing in the EAP, so you should have proper visibility on exactly how it’s benefiting your employees and your company. Make sure that the employee assistance program you decide on provides transparent reporting and key metrics.
Transparent reporting will not only allow you to see which services are being used, but also gives you the opportunity to keep tabs on improvements in your employees’ mental health. A digital, modern platform makes reporting significantly more accurate and in-depth, revealing more meaningful, actionable insights for human resources and organizational leaders.
All EAP providers are required to keep the personal health information of employees 100% confidential, so your team can rest assured that the care that they receive and their health details will be kept private. If you’re still concerned about security, inquire whether the employee assistance program in question has rigorous safety controls compliant with SOC 2 Type 2 requirements for example.
Simple implementation and engagement
The truth is that most traditional EAPs are underutilized – mainly because large numbers of employees aren’t even aware that they have access to an employee assistance program through their company benefits plan. It’s key that the implementation of your EAP goes smoothly and that its services are broadly and regularly communicated to your employees to remind them of the resources available to them.
Another tip is to ensure that you have access to a dedicated account manager. The account manager can support the onboarding process, implement an employee feedback system to monitor satisfaction, and support an ongoing communication strategy to keep your workforce educated on and engaged with your employee assistance program.
Ready to start assessing a Canadian EAP provider? Make sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to EAPs to gain further clarity on employee assistance programs. And to make your hunt for the right EAP all that much simpler, we've prepared the following checklist for you.