COVID-19 and the Rise of the EAP


Nearly half of adults in the US in a recent KFF poll said their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over COVID-19. As employers look for ways to support workers who may be struggling, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) has taken center stage.

What is an EAP?

An EAP offers resources to help individuals address personal issues that may be affecting their work performance, health and emotional well-being. These can include marital issues, stress, depression, substance abuse, grief and more. Typical components of a program include assessments, short-term counseling, referrals to other services and follow up to help employees – and usually their families. In most cases, the services are available to employees even if they don’t enroll in the company’s health insurance plan.

What are the benefits of an EAP?

EAP services are designed to help employees get the important support they need, when they need it. And the interventions can be effective. In fact, some research shows that as many as 90% of participants found that the programs helped them manage their work-life balance. And there are benefits to employers as well:

  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Greater productivity
  • Increased satisfaction and loyalty
How many companies offer EAPs?

According to the 2019 SHRM Employee Benefits survey, 79% of employers offered an EAP last year. And in the past few years, a significant number of companies – 48% — have enhanced their EAP services or changed vendors to get more robust offerings.

Is EAP utilization going up during COVID-19?

Before COVID-19, multiple studies consistently put EAP use at less than 10%. That’s because some employees don’t really understand what EAP services are. Others worry about sharing personal information. While others don’t believe their issues are significant enough to qualify.

But the pandemic is an ideal time to boost usage. And many have been trying. During the crisis, companies have been ramping up communications about their EAP services so employees know they have the services available to them. Some are even expanding their EAP offerings right now, for example, by providing longer-term bereavement counseling. In fact, a recent survey showed that 53% of employers are providing special offerings to address the emotional impact of COVID-19, which includes changes in employee assistance programs, among others.

How can we drive continued EAP use post-pandemic?

As employees increasingly turn to EAPs during COVID-19, they may better realize their value. Employers should capitalize on this opportunity by continuing to promote the services even as virus concerns wane. Elevate awareness with education and communication. Make sure employees know the services are available for more than just crises – even for what some may consider a minor family problem or workplace conflict. Most importantly, reiterate that the services are completely confidential so employees understand their employer won’t learn any personal information they share.

For more information about how an EAP can support your workforce, contact Complete Payroll Solutions at 401-332-9325. 


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

HR Cast