We frequently hear from employees or supervisors, “I probably should have called the EAP a year ago (or five years ago).” So why is it so hard to reach out for help? Part of the answer is human nature. We hope things will get better in time and we avoid dealing with difficult issues. In the midst of personal difficulties, we may forget about the resources available to help us. There may also be a concern on the part of the employee that the EAP is really confidential. (It is!)
What can managers and supervisors do to encourage employees to seek help sooner?
- Managers and supervisors can encourage employees to use their benefit programs. They can make sure that employees understand how the EAP works and how easy it is to access services.
- Managers who have used the service themselves can talk about a time that they were helped by the EAP, even if it was for help finding childcare or a legal consultation. These frequent reminders about the EAP can help ensure that employees remembers about the benefits when they are needed.
- Managers and supervisors can consult with the EAP as soon as they are aware of an employee’s personal problems. The EAP can help managers figure out the best way to refer an employee to the EAP, what language to use, and how to reassure the employee about the confidential nature of the service.
- Managers and leadership can try to reduce the stigma associated with serious problems such as substance use and behavioral health concerns by providing education and information to employees. Part of this education is to understand that substance use and behavioral health concerns take time to heal, similar to heart disease, cancer or diabetes.
We live in a difficult time of escalating personal issues such as opioid use and workplace violence. Leadership needs education from the EAP in how to recognize signs and symptoms of substance use and behavioral health concerns. The EAP can help with strategies to help individual employees and organizations maintain a healthy workforce.