The business community is developing a variety of interventions that are designed to improve the health and productivity of employees while controlling their health care costs. Employers are well-positioned to positively influence employee health and behavioral choices with a wide array of tools including: financial incentives to reward positive health behaviors, healthy food choices in the cafeteria, effective management practices that reduce stress and increase productivity, health education seminars, health coaching and employee assistance programs.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can help employers with their health and wellness initiatives in several ways:
- Stress is an underlying problem in a variety of chronic health condition including heart disease, obesity and high blood pressure. Increased stress can have a direct negative effect on eating behavior, sleeping patterns, and activity level. EAP’s are designed to make it easy for employees and family members to access professional consultation on the wide variety of personal and family issues that are primary drivers of individual stress.
- Economic insecurity and debt are major sources of stress for many employees. EAP’s offer a convenient array of services that offer impartial and reliable financial advice.
- Many chronic health problems are the result of alcohol and drug problems. EAPs are perfectly positioned to help organizations respond effectively to the problems that substance abuse brings into the workplace.
- Surveys show that one of the main causes of employee stress is the sense that they just don’t have the “time” to get everything done. EAP’s offer employees a multitude of convenience services that save employees time by helping them find what they need: dependent care services, contractors, health providers, volunteer opportunities, educational courses, summer camps, and much more.
- Many EAPs have developed specific health coaching programs (e.g. smoking cessation, nutrition, weight management, exercise and chronic conditions) to complement their more traditional services like mental health counseling and dependent care services.
- Employees often know exactly what they need to do to improve their health. When they fail to make the necessary changes in health related behaviors it may be because those behaviors are durable and long-standing habits. Experiencing multiple failures when attempting to modify these habits can lead to a sense of hopelessness and reluctance to try again. EAP counselors are trained to help their clients overcome these self-defeating behavioral issues.
The best moments for those of us in the counseling field are those occasions when our clients realize that they are truly free to make their own choices. Whatever you may choose to call it, maturity, empowerment or personal liberation, this act of taking responsibility for one’s choices is an essential component of well-being. All health promotion initiatives are ultimately based on individuals taking responsibility for their own health, happiness and productivity. EAPs are one of the most powerful tools organizations can offer employees to help this happen.