“Be loud and be proud”: 5 tips for increasing the usage of your EAP

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is one of the most effective tools available to an employer in order to support employees. However, they are under-promoted and therefore under-utilised and undervalued by those employees they are there to help.

Results from our 2017 employee survey, the ’Workplace Wellbeing Index’, show 72% of employers surveyed provide their employees with this popular benefit - but that the average utilisation rates still remain disappointingly poor at around 3%.

Advancements in technology and product features mean that EAPs are not just simply a confidential telephone counselling line any more. Given the fast-paced, digitally evolved lives of the modern employee, EAPs have evolved to meet the needs of their users. EAPs provide a wealth of valuable support and information around health and wellbeing topics including exercise, sleep, healthy eating, and how to maintain a good work/life blend – as well as a wealth of information around childcare and eldercare, debt, legal issues and a variety of workplace related topics. They also give employees access to professionals who can support them with psychological issues, debt or legal worries.

Most EAPs have a range of support for line managers too, including how to be an effective line manager, support employees with long-term health conditions and how to conduct effective annual appraisals.  

Despite having access to all this information and support, employee utilisation is low and disappointing.

Do employees recognise you as being a supportive employer? Do they trust that their anonymity is being protected and that any data captured will not be used in a detrimental way? Are they having difficulty finding and navigating to and through what they need - or is it simply that they are just getting what they need from other sources?

Dealing with these issues may take some time, so here are my five immediate tips to help increase the usage of your EAP.  

Unsurprisingly, effective communication is key to increasing your EAP access and usage. It needs to be prominent, easy to access and not hosted in the deepest darkest corners of your intranet pages. Employers should be proud that such a benefit is offered to their employees and put it front and centre.

For example, have you considered putting the EAP details in an obvious place on the support tab of your HR department intranet page? Are they clearly displayed within your Health and Wellbeing policy? Are they visible within employee support services, alongside any contact details?

It’s important that the EAP is promoted through employee induction and on-boarding so employees get used to it being accessible from the very start of their employment. Make full use of the communication resources available from the EAP provider too: leaflets, wallet cards, desk prompts and even posters are all great visualisation for internal promotion. They should be visible in breakout areas, tea and coffee points, employee restaurants and recreation areas and noticeboards where possible. Make sure your posters are not just hidden on the back of toilet doors!

As mentioned above, most EAPs have online or smartphone apps - so why not look at having them pre-loaded onto work devices or on desktops as shortcuts? This will help with ease of access and increased usage. Embedding topical subjects, any toolkits available, podcasts or even targeted webinars which are normally aligned with national awareness campaigns can be a great way of promoting the additional services available from the EAP and also used to complement your wellbeing strategy.
Line managers are the conduit between any organisation and their employees. They should know their individual team members well enough to see if someone is ‘not themselves’, if they are struggling with something or just feeling under the weather. With this in mind, line managers also need to be equipped to deal with not only professional issues, but also any personal issues employees have due to their work and home life becoming more blended. An engaged, knowledgeable and well-equipped line manager, who understands the full range of support services available from benefits such as an EAP, will act as a great internal promoter and can signpost colleagues to receive such support. Line managers can also access information, podcasts and documentation around effective line management and how to ensure they are not the main reason why the employee would need to access such support services in the first place.  
Internal events or benefit fairs are great ways of raising awareness of all the benefits available to employees. Those who are happy to talk about their experience of using the services would be ideal case studies and you can gain extra kudos if some of these people are senior or high-profile. These should be held in a central part of the office or even breakout area to ensure maximum participation from employees.  Managers should encourage staff to attend. Oh, and remind your EAP provider to bring along some freebies – everybody loves a free pen and it’s a great way to increase attendance!
EAP is a great service for employees. However, due to the confidential nature of the service, management information on the usage thereof is not always informative.  Ensure that as an employer, you track EAP usage to see if there are any spikes which could help provide insight into business performance, along with the reasons for access. You can also ask for feedback on the EAP service via a wellbeing or benefits survey to understand from employees whether their EAP is supporting their needs. If possible, share this feedback with the provider for them to continue to enhance their proposition to meet the needs of your workforce.
"There is no point in your EAP being your best kept secret. Be loud and be proud. "

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