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18 May 2018

Five top tips for increasing EAP usage

An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is one of the most effective tools available to an employer to support employees. However, they are underpromoted and therefore underutilised and undervalued by those employees they are there to help.


Results from our 2017 employee survey, the Workplace Wellbeing Index, showed that 72 per cent of employers surveyed provide their employees with this popular benefit, but that the average utilisation rates still remain disappointingly poor at around three per cent.

Advancements in technology and product features mean that EAPs are no longer just a simple confidential telephone counselling line. Given the fast-paced, digitally evolved lives of the modern employee, EAPs have evolved to meet the needs of their users. EAPs provide a wealth of valuable support and information around health and wellbeing topics including exercise, sleep, healthy eating, and how to maintain a good work/life blend – as well as a wealth of information around childcare and eldercare, debt, legal issues and a variety of workplace related topics. They also give employees access to professionals who can support them with psychological issues, debt or legal worries.

Most EAPs have a range of support for line managers too, including how to be an effective line manager, support employees with long-term health conditions and how to conduct effective annual appraisals.  

Despite having access to all this information and support, employee utilisation is low and disappointing.

There could be a range of reasons for this: do employees recognise you as being a supportive employer? Do they trust that their anonymity is being protected and that any data captured will not be used in a detrimental way? Are they having difficulty finding and navigating to and through what they need – or is it simply that they are just getting what they need from other sources?

Dealing with these issues may take some time, so here are our five immediate tips to help increase the usage of your EAP. 

1. Communicate the EAP

Unsurprisingly, effective communication is key to increasing your EAP access and usage. It needs to be prominent, easy to access and not hosted in the deepest darkest corners of your intranet pages. Employers should be proud that such a benefit is offered to their employees and put it front and centre.

For example, have you considered putting the EAP details in an obvious place on the support tab of your HR department intranet page? Are the details clearly displayed within your Health and Wellbeing policy? Is EAP information visible within employee support services, alongside any contact details?

It’s important that the EAP is promoted through employee induction and on-boarding so employees get used to it being accessible from the very start of their employment. Make full use of the communication resources available from the EAP provider too: leaflets, wallet cards, desk prompts and even posters are all great visualisation for internal promotion. They should be visible in breakout areas, tea and coffee points, employee restaurants, recreation areas and noticeboards, where possible. Make sure your posters are not just hidden on the back of toilet doors.

2. Promote the EAP’s online services 

As mentioned above, most EAPs have online or smartphone apps – so why not look at having them pre-loaded onto work devices or on desktops as shortcuts? This will help with ease of access and increased usage. Embedding topical subjects, toolkits, podcasts or even targeted webinars, which are normally aligned with national awareness campaigns, can be a great way of promoting the additional services available from the EAP and can also be used to complement your wellbeing strategy.

3. Upskill your line managers

Line managers are the conduit between any organisation and their employees. They should know their individual team members well enough to see if someone is ‘not themselves’, if they are struggling with something or just feeling under the weather. With this in mind, line managers also need to be equipped to deal with not only professional issues, but also any personal issues employees have due to their work and home life becoming more blended.

An engaged, knowledgeable and well-equipped line manager, who understands the full range of support services available from benefits such as an EAP, will act as a great internal promoter and can signpost colleagues to receive such support. Line managers can also access information, podcasts and documentation around effective line management and how to ensure they are not the main reason why the employee would need to access such support services in the first place. 

4. Events or benefit fairs 

Internal events or benefit fairs are great ways of raising awareness of all the benefits available to employees. Those who are happy to talk about their experience of using the services would be ideal case studies and you can gain extra kudos if some of these people are senior or high-profile. These should be held in a central part of the office or even a breakout area to ensure maximum participation from employees. Managers should encourage staff to attend. Oh, and remind your EAP provider to bring along some freebies – everybody loves a free pen and it’s a great way to increase attendance.

5. Management information and feedback  

EAP is a great service for employees. However, due to the confidential nature of the service, management information on the usage thereof is not always informative. Ensure that as an employer, you track EAP usage to see if there are any spikes which could help provide insight into business performance, along with the reasons for access. You can also ask for feedback on the EAP service via a wellbeing or benefits survey to understand from employees whether their EAP is supporting their needs. If possible, share this feedback with the provider for them to continue to enhance their proposition to meet the needs of your workforce.

There is no point in your EAP being your best kept secret. Be loud and be proud.

Want more tips on how to keep your organisation in shape?

Join Barnett Waddingham’s Head of Workplace Consultancy, Peter Meyler, in our interactive webinar. We will help you define the barriers and enablers to help you understand, measure and manage your organisational health from an employment perspective.

This article was provided by Barnett Waddingham.

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