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By: Debra Kabalkin on April 13th, 2014

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How Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Helps with Workplace Stress

Risk Management | Benefits | Employee Relations

Here we are, it's November 2020 and we've been experiencing a global pandemic for nearly a whole year. Stateside, this pandemic has manifested stress and anxiety for employees and leaders alike. Additionally, we are facing the most divisive election that we can recall, and a movement towards social justice. With other factors like virtual learning, caring for young children at home, caring for aging family members, experiencing grief, a job loss or reduction in salary, people in general, have a lot on their plates and minds right now.

Forbes recently shared a few statistics that are worth noting:

  • The economy is now a significant source of stress for 70% of Americans, according to APA.
  • The Census Bureau reports more than one-third of Americans have displayed clinical signs of anxiety, depression, or both since the coronavirus pandemic began. 
  • Only 50% of employees are comfortable discussing mental health issues, the APA also reports.

The biggest piece of advice we share with our clients around how to help your employees get through this is by giving grace, showing humility, and being flexible. Sometimes, simply reaching out to check in as a leader can make all the difference. Set the tone by being empathetic, listen, share your own stories, and give your team the permission to have the space and flexibility that they need right now. Mental health has always been important, and it's even more so today. 

Initially, when this article was first written several years ago, it was in response to a fatal shooting spree in Ft. Hood, Texas after an enlisted man was denied his request of paid leave. High levels of stress can be linked to employee absenteeism, turnover and other issues including decreased productivity, poor morale and sadly, even workplace violence. 

Stress develops when a person is unable to cope with the demands being placed on them.  Stress does not play favorites and at one time or another, most people are faced with stressors that are a direct result of the circumstances of their work-life.

Stress can manifest itself with the following symptoms:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Moodiness
  • Depression or general unhappiness
  • Irritability
  • Short temper
  • Chest pains
  • Sleeping too much (or too little)
  • Using alcohol or drugs
  • Nervous habits

As HR and business leaders, it's important to know what stress looks like in the workplace and try to stay ahead of it. We recommend if you aren't already, offering your employees access to an Employee Assistance Program as part of their benefits package.

What is an Employee Assistance Program?

EAP's generally include short-term counseling, resources and referral services for long term help for employees and their household members. They employ trained professionals to help employees work through problems and develop a plan of action to address those issues.

If your company does not have an Employee Assistance Program, talk with your benefits broker about the range of services that are available.  Many EAP’s are a low cost benefit for the company with a very large return on investment for the employees.

Lastly, if you believe an employee is under a lot of pressure or stress, encourage them to utilize the EAP and offer your support. You can help them lighten their workload, offer the opportunity to take a day off, or suggest planning an upcoming vacation. Here's another helpful article my colleague wrote on additional suggestions to reduce stress in the workplace.