Nearly 90 Years of Support
We live in a fast-paced, often unforgiving environment. We wake up, go to work, come home in the evening, take care of the household, and then eventually get to bed—probably too late—just to repeat the process the next day. This is only the high-level actions from the day. Adding external stressors (e.g., bills, employer demands, etc.) and internal stressors (e.g., family, negative thoughts, addictions, etc.) makes getting through each day much harder. Time does not stop, so we push through instead of stepping back to focus on our mental state and other areas that could use a little help. This thought process is seen as normal in our society, and many do not seek the support they need because of their pride, being labeled as weak because they cannot handle it, or are worried about what other people will think if someone finds out. Fortunately, many workers can access the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which can assist workers in a way that they don’t feel bad about asking for help.
Today, most employees have heard of the number of EAP services offered by their employer; however, EAPs started nearly 90 years ago. The early idea of EAP was born in the United States from two areas of focus: occupational social work and occupational alcoholism. Occupational social work focuses on helping organizations re-engineer their structure and methods to improve efficiency, creativity, productivity, and morale. Occupational alcoholism, as the name implies, concentrates on working with employees with alcohol problems.
In the 1930s, drinking on the job was not an uncommon activity. Due to employees being intoxicated while on the clock, major corporations like E.I. Dupont de Nemours Company and Kodak Park Works of Eastman Kodak Company started noticing a correlation between decreased productivity and alcoholism. The reduced productivity sparked companies offering employer-provided alcohol programs in the late 1930s. The 1940s saw a growth of these alcohol programs across the nation; however, there were some issues with how the programs promoted the benefits of treating alcoholism in the workplace. The early programs treated this as a moral issue, and unqualified supervisors often identified employees with alcohol problems. Employees viewed the programs with suspicion due to only the “worker level” positions being targeted for alcoholism.
The next several decades saw significant advances to what we know as EAPs today. The Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention Treatment and Rehabilitation Act (the Hughes Act) was passed in the 1970s, which required alcoholism programs in all federal and military institutions. The Hughes Act was also amended to include drug abuse as well. The 1970s saw the shift from strictly alcoholism programs to programs that offered assistance for mental, family, and parent/child issues. Another change came in how participants were identified. Instead of untrained supervisors confronting employees, the programs encourage self-referral. Professionals trained in social work (academically and professionally) would work with employees utilizing the program. These changes allowed EAPs to increase in popularity; by 1980, 80% of Fortune 500 companies had an EAP (Masi, 2011). According to the National Library of Medicine, as of 2022, “over 70.9 million workers in the U.S. have access to an EAP.”
What EAP can do for you
Unlike its early days, EAP goes beyond an in-house service for treating alcoholism. Most EAP options are now offered through third-party companies and are “designed to provide better accountability, decreased legal liability, and ease of program start-up and implementation” (Masi, 2011). Some of the areas of support include the following:
- Cultural Competency Services—These services help individuals to understand and respect values, attitudes, and beliefs that may differ from one’s own views or culture. Understanding those different than yourself will foster diverse workplaces and healthy interactions. Training programs from this focus area include cultural and ethnic awareness, workplace microaggressions, and gender inclusivity. Transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary employees can find resources that assist in navigating the workplace and social interactions during transitioning.
- Mental Health Counseling Services—Counseling services allow employees to speak to a licensed clinician or counselor 24/7. These services focus on overall health and mental wellbeing.
- Financial and Legal Services—Financial and legal services can provide resources and assistance in areas such as drafting a living will and health care power of attorney, housing or real estate matters, estate planning, education funding, family budgeting, retirement planning, investment strategies and many more (OPM, 2023). EAP services can also provide referrals to other professionals for more complex financial and legal situations.
- Dependent Care Services—Dependent care services help support those caring for family members. These services include assistance locating quality care for children, elders, and other dependents; resources and supports for employees in various stages of parenting; access to worksite lactation support for nursing employees (to include accommodations for pumping and appropriate storage of breast milk); and educational tools to assist with an employee’s professional and family responsibilities.
- Workplace Conflict Resolution Services—These services guide employers and employees in handling and resolving tension and challenges in the workplace. This includes tips for overcoming past, present, and future issues with professional relationships. Training can be provided to help personnel learn conflict resolution strategies and healthy communication techniques.
- Substance Use Treatment Services— These services offer referrals to employees using illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs or alcohol for unintended purposes. A big reason for offering these services is to develop a healthy work environment void of stigmas that come with substance abuse and to encourage personnel to seek help when needed. Training is provided to help employers and employees notice signs and symptoms of substance abuse.
- Crisis Intervention Services—These services provide immediate and short-term emergency responses to sudden traumatic events, which can negatively impact an employee’s mental, emotional, or physical state. These services should offer traumatic incident response, violence prevention, crisis management training, resources, and counseling for individuals and organizations (OPM, 2023).
Once a service type is determined, employees have the options of different EAP types for services offered:
- In-House/Internal Programs—EAP services are provided internally at the employee’s place of work. Internal programs are most commonly found in large companies and may have third-party EAP vendors come onsite to provide services.
- External Programs—An employee contacts the EAP provider and, once confirmed to receive benefits, will receive locations of providers that are geographically convenient to the employee.
- Blended/Hybrid Programs—These programs combine the first two EAP types mentioned. If the employee wants to have services provided by their employer onsite, they may do so. Otherwise, the employee can use the vendor network to find a location close to where they are for services.
- Management-Sponsored Programs—This program type is solely sponsored by management, unlike the traditional structure of being run by a union and/or management and union. Due to being run by management, the services offered vary by employer and may only focus on one service (i.e., substance abuse).
- Member Assistance Programs—Member Assistance Programs are similar to EAPs and are run only by unions. Member programs provide many of the same services EAPs offer, including prevention, problem identification, referral, and counseling services.
- Peer-Based Programs—Peer-based EAPs offer education, training, assistance, and referrals—all through peers and coworkers. This type requires that all employees are extensively trained to support other co-workers.
EAP Offered by PGS
Like many larger companies, Prominent Global Solutions offers an EAP to their employees provided through Uprise Health via a Guardian plan. PGS’s EAP provides you and your family members with confidential, personal, and online/web-based support. The following services are offered by the PGS EAP:
Employee assistance program (EAP) consultative services
- Online modules and coaching
- Telephonic counseling
- Face-to-face counseling
- EAP website resources
- College planning resources
Work/Life assistance and resources
- Work/Life services
- Child and elder care referral
- Employee discounts — access to discounts on many products and services
- Medical billing negotiation tools
Legal/financial assistance and resources
- Legal consultation for financial problems or planning needs
- ID theft resources
- Will Prep
- Tax consultation
- Online self-service legal documents
Each PGS employee has access to all these great services and should use them whenever they are in need.
The Final Key to EAPs
The most important component of any EAP is for the employee or family member of the employee to use the EAP when in need. So often, people will think they can handle struggles themselves and do not need assistance. Like the PGS EAP, companies offer these services to all their employees. There is no reason to not reach out during a time of need and get the help you need. Referring to an EAP program will help you get through the tough times and improve your outcome on the other end.