Can EAP Handle Your Employees Needs During the Crisis?

According to the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) 97% of large organizations (with over 5,000 employees) and close to 80% of smaller organizations offer free Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to help with personal and family issues. While many organizations are reminding their employees and increasing the visibility of their EAPs, it’s unlikely that your organization’s current program will fully meet your employees’ needs during a   crisis period such as the current Coronavirus pandemic, which has broad and long-lasting effects. At a recent “Future of Work” Mastermind Roundtable, we discussed EAP’s in the context of the current crisis situation. Below are insights and helpful resources that you may find helpful.

A low percentage of employees typically make use of employer EAPs.

Employee participation rates in EAPs have historically been low. Many employees are concerned about the stigma associated with using the service which has been linked with mental health and substance abuse issues. Employees are also concerned about their privacy with employer-provided services and worry about potential issues with how they are perceived by supervisors and co-workers. Lastly, EAP solutions or interventions are typically limited in scope and the number of available sessions per employee. So while your EAP may be a good solution to addressing specific issues for a few employees at a time, it is not designed to provide a long-term solution to a broad issue affecting many employees with long-term impacts, such as the current crisis.

What do employees need most right now?

As Shaara Roman, a member of the “Future of Work” MasterMind community pointed out in last week’s virtual Roundtable, "First and foremost employees need to feel they are informed about what is going on, so that they can plan for themselves and their families.” Few things have a greater negative impact on productivity than uncertainty. In addition to accurate and timely information, leaders need to exhibit patience and empathy towards their employees. 

If employees are concerned about the safety of their jobs and the viability of the organization itself, they’re unlikely to remain motivated and productive for long. Your employees always deserve an honest assessment of their performance and individual value-add as well as an accurate idea of where the organization is heading, but at times like this open and transparent communications are critical. Clear and honest messaging from the top and throughout the organization will provide greater benefits than “pep talks” to cheer everyone up.

During this pandemic, uncertainty goes far beyond job safety. Keep in mind that employees at every level are grappling with massive disruption to every aspect of their lives. While concerned about their jobs, they’re likely also dealing with a combination of child-care and home-schooling issues, food and supply issues and possibly the very scary prospect of family or personal illness. This is where patience and empathy will continue to be key. Managers need to keep in mind that an employee’s state-of-mind, availability and productivity could radically change from one day to the next. Leaders need to be more sensitive than ever to the signs of distress, anxiety and even depression in your staff. Be sure you’re connecting with team members every week, even if it is just a “check-in” and also enlist others in your immediate circle to reach out and lend a compassionate and understanding ear to those employees who need to connect and discuss their concerns and unique needs.

What is OurOffice doing to help?

To help in this crisis, OurOffice is offering our engagement tool free of charge for the remainder of 2020. It is our hope that this communications platform will help organizations connect and engage their employees to foster more on-going open and transparent communications for leadership, as well as across the organization. The ability to communicate anonymously, while maintaining appropriate filters, ensures a safe environment. 

OurOffice is also providing a subscription-based employee coaching service with live HR professionals as a much-needed alternative that might be more attractive to employees in crisis than discussing personal issues directly with a manager or signing up for EAP services that might trigger privacy concerns.

Please reach out to us at if you have other ideas to share, or if we can help your organization during these challenging times.