4 Ways This Little Known Health Benefit Saves You and Your Boss Real Money

by Lars Peterson on 3 November 2015 (0 comments)

So you get health insurance through your employer, but have you looked at your company’s benefit materials to see what else they offer to improve your health and your life? For example, many employers offer what is known as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). An EAP offers guidance and counseling on a whole range of issues both inside and outside the workplace. This program helps people deal with everyday issues like stress and depression before they turn into major problems.

What kinds of issues are covered under EAP? Just about anything that might affect your performance at work, including:

  • Alcohol use
  • Stress
  • Grief
  • Family and relationship problems
  • Child care
  • Elder care
  • Education
  • Legal issues
  • Financial issues — credit and debt management, budgeting, retirement planning, student loans, buying and refinancing a home.

Most plans are usually available to employee families and households, too. And EAP services are typically available to all employees, regardless of health plan enrollment status. Now that you know what an EAP is, let's look at how it can save you — and your employer — real money.

Improved Work-Life Balance

Between responsibilities at work and home, sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day. In a recent Cigna survey of employees who participate in an EAP, nearly 97 percent said that the EAP helped them manage work-life balance. For example, those who participate in an EAP program might seek out assistance in developing better time management skills, which helps improve productivity, reduce hours at the office, and minimize stress. Many programs can also help people find affordable child or elder care options.

Reduced Stress

According to the Harvard Business School, job stress costs the U.S. economy $190 billion a year in healthcare costs. However, nearly 98 percent of respondents to Cigna's surveyi reported that their company's EAP helped them better manage their stress. Less stress means less illness and lower health care costs. For employers, controlling stress in the workplace can help reduce costs related to job turnover and absenteeism and help improve employee performance.

Better Financial Management

Work-related stress is common, and so is stress related to personal finance.  Fifty-three percent of Americans who experience a "great deal" of stress reported that financial issues are a factor, according to a study by the Harvard University School of Medicine.

An EAP counselor can put employees in contact with a wealth of personal finance resources, including credit and debt management counseling, budgeting guidance and even retirement planning.  Developing strong personal finance skills can mean less money spent and more money earned via investment and saving.

Improved Productivity

A study published in the Journal of Health and Productivity surveyed employees in five key areas before and after they accessed EAP services. Employees in the study showed improvements in all five areas surveyed: absenteeism, presenteeism, work engagement, life satisfaction, and workplace distress. The EAP programs provided counseling services to help employees cope with stress and problems in all aspects of their lives (and not just work stress).  The researchers were intrigued by these results because the EAP services employees accessed were not specifically aimed at improving workplace effectiveness.

The results of the study tells us something most of us already suspected — that when employees resolve their personal problems through counseling, they become happier individuals and more productive workers.

The Bottom Line

According to the L.A. Times, only 4% to 6% of people with access to EAP programs use them. The L.A. Times reports that the low participation is likely due to people not knowing about these programs. This is a shame, since EAP programs offer a variety of free (or discounted) services that help people lead happier, healthier lives. Now that you know about EAPs, contact your HR department today and see which services might be available for you and your family.

Also be sure to check out this podcast for tips to help you get the most from your EAP.

[1] *Cigna Participant Satisfaction Survey 2012.

This article is sponsored by Cigna. It is for educational purposes only and is intended to promote consumer health. It is not intended as financial or medical advice and you should always consult a professional for financial or medical advice. For other tips on using your health benefits, visit www.cigna.com/knowyourbenefits.

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4 Ways This Little Known Health Benefit Saves You and Your Boss Real Money

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