Trends in Employee Assistance Programs
Over the last 30 years, Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s) have been on the fast-track of evolution. EAP’s have evolved into sophisticated wellness programs that address many issues that affect the lives of employees and negatively impact job performance. These issues can range from depression, anxiety disorders, substances abuse, and marital issues or divorce. EAP’s provide employees confidential counseling and referral services for a myriad of personal concerns, from anxiety to parenting at no cost to the employee (Carlson 1).
EAP’s have evolved from initial efforts which were originally a response to alcoholism, to today’s broad brushed programs directed at a multitude of personal and professional work-related issues. Basically, what started out as an employee-movement has become an integral part of today’s society. According to a report by the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health in Arlington, VA, U.S. employers incur annual costs of $80 to $100 billion due to issues such as lost productivity and absenteeism related to mental illness and substance abuse. The report estimates 25% of working adults are affected by mental illness or substance abuse each year (Mortland 1). Employee Assistance Programs can help to deter some of these costs while at the same time helping to increase productivity within the work force. History of Employee Assistance Programs
Employee Assistance Programs can be traced back as far as the early 1900’s; The New York city department store, Macy’s, opened the first department exclusively aimed at helping employees deal with professional and personal problems. However, most large corporations didn’t start to recognize the overwhelming need for these types of programs until after World War II. It was then that corporations began to recognize that they could no longer ignore the needs of white-collar workers. Many white-collar workers were war veterans who suffered from post traumatic stress disorders due to the atrocities they witnessed while at war for our country. Many white-collar workers abused alcohol to help cope with the horrors they had witnessed in the past. Excessive alcohol dependency and the problems associated with it led employers to create the first Employee Assistance Program around 1945. Gradually, in-house alcoholism programs that were previously implemented by employers evolved into Employee Assistance Programs. Early Employee Assistance programs were primarily organized and ran by recovering alcoholics who were actually responsible for training managers and supervisors to spot alcoholics by looking for symptoms such as trembling of the hands, bloodshot eyes, and the smell of alcohol on their breath. During this time, these types of programs weren’t necessarily known as “Employee Assistance Programs” and only the largest companies, usually those with five thousand or more employees would have been able to offer these types of programs. Employers began to pay closer attention to the gratifying results of these programs; over the next thirty years, alcohol abuse remained the sole focus of EAP’s. However around the 1970’s, employers realized the need to address some of the other reasons or issues keeping their employees away from the workplace and simultaneously preventing them from performing to the best of their abilities. The drug crisis of the 1960’s and the 1970’s inadvertently brought drug and alcohol abuse programs together to support and counsel “substance” abusers. During this same time period, the demographic landscape of America was changing; the “every day” family structure began to change and more single-parent households emerged. Because of this “weakening” of the family structure, many employees began to experience more legal and financial personal problems then they had in the past. The concept of...
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