Myke Thomas

What is an Employee Assistance Program?

Ever have stress-dreams about work? Do you obsess about home problems when you should be concentrating on important projects at work? Sometimes the juggle is too much and all the balls fall to the ground.

How about reaching out for help before things can get to this point? When you have personal and work issues, it takes a lot out of you.

To learn about what an Employee Assistance Program is and how it might help you, read on.

Employee Assistance Program

You might remember reading something about an Employee Assistance Program when you first joined your current employer. It was buried among a stack of tax, insurance, and other on-boarding documents, so you didn't pay a lot of attention to it.

That's okay, we've got your back. Let's have a look at what an EAP is and how it might help you or close family members.

What Is It?

An EAP is a service provided by your workplace, funded by the employer. It can help you to work through every day as well as the unexpected stressors in life.

Why would your employer pay for that sort of support, you might ask?

A good employer cares about you and wants you to be healthy and well at work. It means you'll be at your most creative and innovative. It means you'll be encouraging your teammates to put in their bet as well.

Even the bad bosses want you healthy and well. Every recruitment and onboarding round costs 1.5 to 2 times their annual full-time wage. They'd prefer to hold onto good staff who know their job.

How Do I Access It?

Often your employer will contract a company specializing in Employee Assistance Program to provide support to their employees. Doing it this way improves confidentiality and comfort as it removes the power imbalances in other, internal support options.

The employer pays for the service, but receive no information on who is using the service and for what.

If your employer offers an EAP, there will be a phone number you can call whenever you feel under pressure. You will get instant help at the other end of the line from a professional counselor.

What Can They Help Me With?

There really isn't a limit to what you can discuss with the EAP. You can talk to them about workplace conflicts, mental health issues you or family members experience, and drug addiction impacting on your work or home life.

Call the EAP to get some assistance when working through grief, if you're stuck in a financial hole, or if you have caregiving, health or legal problems.

What Will It Cost Me?

You can get some more information on your first contact with the EAP. Generally, you get 1-3 counseling sessions at no cost to you. It's not intended as a long-term fix. Think of them as a bit of a triage support service.

They'll spend your sessions learning as much as they can about your needs, before referring you to longer-term solutions.

Is It Confidential?

The point of an EAP is that it's a professional, confidential, independent service. They are not contracted to represent and protect your employer.

They're only there to support you so you can be your best.

You can talk to them in total confidence about:

> Mental health issues

> Substance abuse issues

> Financial and legal issues

> Interpersonal communication issues

> Self-confidence issues

The only caveat on the guarantee of confidentiality relates to all psychologists and counselors. If they hear from you something that puts your safety or the safety of somebody else at serious risk, they may need to escalate the issue to the appropriate authorities.

They would only do this, wherever possible, after informing you of their obligations and intended action.

In your first session, the counselor will likely explain these sorts of extreme scenarios to you so you can give informed consent. If they don't bring it up but you're curious about the limits of confidentiality, just ask them.

Can It Affect My Work Record?

The EAP service provides support funded by but totally independent of your employer. That means what you say during your sessions will not go on your work record.

Think of it this way, EAP is your way of stopping these issues from unintentionally getting on your record in the future, by dealing with them now.

It's worth repeating: EAP is an entirely confidential support service. It will not affect your future work opportunities if you access EAP.

I'm a Manager - Can I Use It?

If you're a manager, not only can you use the service, you really should make a point of it. As a manager, you have a whole other set of responsibilities on you at work.

It can be emotional work supporting a team.

Great managers that use the EAP service will actually mention that to staff when they promote the EAP. By telling the staff you yourself have used it before gives them permission to seek support.

It tells them this is the sort of workplace that sees and cares about each of its team members as individuals.

Now, Where Did I Put That EAP Flyer?!

Have a rifle through your onboarding documents, or just go ahead and ask HR for the Employee Assistance Program number if you'd like some support.

Reach out before things get too heavy. A confidential chat with a professional counselor can help you work through issues and avoid them snowballing in the future.

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