An Underutilized Way to Support Wellness at Work

4 min read

After 39 years, I have grown accustomed to the looks I get when I tell people I’m a therapist. Those looks often say either “Yeah, I need one of those,” or “Are you diagnosing me right now?”

What I’m not accustomed to is the look I get when I tell people that I’m also an employee assistance (EA) professional. That look is more along the lines of “Should that mean something to me?”

Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are often the best-kept secret in the workplace, even in companies where an EA professional is onsite.

It’s time to spread the word about this service that many employers tuck away as a seldom-mentioned benefit—before it goes the way of pensions, casual Fridays, and snack machines with only salty or sugary treats. Given the current state of stress in the workplace, there has never been a time when providing for the mental and emotional health of workers has been more critical or necessary.

The 2023 Work in America Survey released by the American Psychological Association found that “workplace stress remains at a concerning level, with 77% of workers having reported experiencing work-related stress in the last month. Further, 57% indicated experiencing negative impacts because of work-related stress that are sometimes associated with workplace burnout.” This is why an increasing number of people have stopped saying, “I’m going to work,” and instead simply say, “I’m going to stress.”

Employee Assistance Programs grew out of the Alcoholics Anonymous movement when employers realized there was a benefit to offering onsite support to their workers living with alcoholism. Soon, the service expanded to include other mental health and emotional issues, and services moved offsite to improve confidentiality for employees using them.

Some of the areas covered by EAPs include:

Given their unique position of working with both employees and management, EA professionals can address personal and systemic issues in the workplace. This is one of the things I find most rewarding about this work: Not only am I able to assist workers with their problems, but I’m also able to have an impact on the environment in which they find themselves and which is often the source of so much stress. As a trainer, I have presented on topics such as managing change, conflict resolution, workplace bullying, and dealing with diversity, to name just a few.

In addition to helping workers manage the daily machinations of balancing home and work life, EA professionals are often trained in critical incident stress management (CISM) techniques. This gives management access to psychological first responders who can help employees cope with traumatic events in the workplace or other circumstances that may impact their work performance. According to, the benefits of an EAP program include:

  • increasing employee productivity.
  • reducing employee absenteeism.
  • boosting employee engagement and retention.
  • improving employee safety.
  • saving time and money.

The reasons that such a valuable service is often underutilized — it’s used by as little as only 3% of the workforce — are many. However, a primary one is that people are wary of anything associated with mental or behavioral health. Many people have an innate fear that things will only get worse if they slow down long enough to talk to someone about themselves. This is a sad irony, since the more we try to run away from our problems the more they seem to chase us down. Another concern is the belief that one must be crazy if they need to talk to a therapist. But this is easily overcome by seeing the mental health professional as a life coach, mentor, or just someone to vent to who is not going to take what you say personally.

If you’re reading this and wondering if you have this service at your job, check in with your benefits administrator or HR department. If you know you have this service, but have never used it, why not give it a try? In a world where there is no such thing as a free lunch, EAP services are not only free; they offer a smorgasbord of services for weary and stressed-out workers. If you are a business owner and thinking you would like to purchase this service for your worksite, look up local EAP providers, talk with other business owners who utilize a service, or turn to the Employee Assistance Professionals Association.

You May Also Like

More From Author

+ There are no comments

Add yours