A large study conducted by the Federal Occupational Health (FOH), the largest provider of occupational health services in the federal government has linked EAP use with improvement on measures of productivity, work and social relationships, perceived health status, attendance and tardiness, and global assessment of functioning.
FOH used a five-item measure, the Work Outcome Suite (WOS), recognized as the industry gold-standard tool for measuring absenteeism, presenteeism, work engagement, life satisfaction and workplace distress. Data was collected from 4800 respondents when they initially accessed EAP services and then compared to their responses to the same questions at follow up 3 months later.
The results demonstrated the positive influence of using the EAP on all 5 of the measures:
- 69.2 % reduction in absenteeism
- 22.8 % reduction in work presenteeism
- 2.8 % improvement in work engagement
- 24.2 % improvement in life satisfaction
- 10.0 % reduction in workplace distress
These results, which were found to be statistically significant for all 5 measures, are a powerful demonstration of the positive effect of EAP services on employee performance. The nearly 70% reduction in absenteeism alone is compelling evidence for the value of offering professional support to employees who are facing personal challenges.
The nearly 23% reduction in presenteeism is clear evidence that the EAP is helping employees address their personal concerns so that they can focus their attention more effectively on their work responsibilities.
The EAP offered by FOH is a full service program that offers integrated work/life services in addition to professional counseling. It is particularly noteworthy that the improvements demonstrated in this study extend to both work (10% reduction in workplace distress) and home (24.2% increase in life satisfaction). The life satisfaction measure reflects the impact of work and life issues on a person’s overall sense of well-being and quality of life.
It is important to emphasize that these findings, which show that EAP services produce a positive impact on employee well-being and productivity, are based on a full-service and robust EAP model. There is no evidence to suggest that these improvements would have been achieved by what I have previously labeled a “pretend EAP”, i.e. a low visibility, low utilization and stripped down EAP.
In addition to the full range of EAP services the FOH EAP makes available to employees; their program includes consultation services for supervisors and managers which provide expert guidance in managing organizational change, work performance, critical incidents and other workplace concerns.
In the next stage of reporting on this data, the study’s authors plan on a return on investment analysis, which they expect to quantify the significant financial value of a full-service, high utilization EAP.
If you are a human resources professional, or you are a front line manager, your assessment of the value of the EAP includes whether the EAP helps you get your work done and makes your life less stressful. You assign a tangible value to having a dependable professional resource helping you manage the unpredictable ebb and flow of employee personal problems that impact the workplace.
However, if you are sitting in the CFO’s seat, more insulated from the disruptions and stresses associated with the daily management of these employee difficulties, your perspective requires a more quantitative measure of how the EAP provides enough business value to justify the expense.
The FOH study is poised to make a significant contribution to the evidence that full service EAPs have a positive financial impact on their host organizations.