By Shweta Bapat
Employee assistance programme (EAP) aims to assist employees to deal with work related problems rather challenges as well as personal problems to improve healthy functioning of the workplace. The concept of EAP can be found in from around 1930s. Earlier these programs were developed to deal with a major issue of that time in the industry that was occupational alcoholism. This problem was directly affecting the companies as the job performances of employees were affecting negatively. Industry noticed the effect of EAP through which the rehabilitation of employees was made possible and it in turn increased their productivity to the noticeable level.
In today’s world EAP does not have a limited scope of dealing with just one issue but needs to address various problems related to employees. Increased scope of EAP includes various problems right from the very basic problems like inability to cope with new technology or system, up to the serious problems like work place violence, which are creating stressful situations at workplace and affecting the physical as well mental health of employees. These stressful situations directly affect on the performance of suffering employees. Theses increased levels of stress and depression among the employees are the main reasons why effective Employee Assistance programmes are needed.
EAP needs to assure an environment where the confidentiality is maintained so that employees feel it safe to share the information or their feelings. Effective EAPs facilitates employees in timely problem identification and defining their exact problem rather than rushing for finding out probable solutions before analysing it properly.
EA professionals associated with companies help employees to meet challenges through periodic short term counselling, training, referrals, recommendations and all type of required assistance including medical assistance if required.
From last few years the trend of including the family members or partners or even dependents broaden the scope of these programs to deal with financial, marital, professional, emotional, legal, and addiction related issues in a better manner. Involving near and dear ones in the EAPs have shown better and fast results to the organisations. These services are proving helpful in improving the employee wellbeing and work life balance.
Most of companies having large number of employees are providing EAP services as compared to the companies having smaller number of employees. Still very few employees (study shows only 5%) take an advantage of it and many of them are not even aware about the availability of such service. Many companies have developed their own EAP systems but companies also can even hire the services of EAP consultants from the market. To prove these systems to be more effective the services are made available 24 by 7 through hotlines by most of the organisations.
A study shows, more than of 90% American companies having 5000 or more employees and more than 75% companies having lesser number of employees are offering EAP services. But in India EAP is still not prevalent on expected scale. EA programmes are in fact beneficial to the companies as they are beneficial to the employees.
The EA programmes made available by the companies help the employees to overcome their problems, whether personal or professional which increases the employee wellbeing and the increased productivity and job performance create winning situation for the company as well. In addition to this company saves a lot because of lesser medical claims, reduction in absenteeism, low turnover rate etc. Therefore the companies must pay attention towards this effective tool of employee wellbeing to create a Win-Win situation for both employees as well as management.
(About the Author: Mrs. Shweta Bapat, HoD Human Resource Management, Kaveri College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Pune)
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