Are EAPs the Future of Wellness?
by Nicole C. Baldwin
Corporate culture has long been a buzzword inspiring forward-thinking policies in the workplace. For companies looking to implementing creative wellness policies and programs, here are some tips that to put you ahead of the next wave of culture-related buzz.
Employee Assistance Programs
Numerous companies offer benefits through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which often uses vendors to provide employees with services like free consultations with financial and mental health professionals.
An employee’s use of EAP services are designed in a way to increase an employee’s productivity. For example, employees with a “recession mentality” may be afraid to ask their employer for time off work. We know that economic experts believe that the current 40-hour workweek has created a “recession mentality” by many U.S. workers, where employees believe they need to work more hours to avoid losing their job.
To combat the recession mentality, Tower’s founder encourages employees to identify unproductive behaviors and focus on ones that create value and boost productivity. Similarly, employers who provide their employees with opportunities to participate in free and confidential counseling sessions through EAP’s – for time management issues, career development advice and student loan repayment plans – are likely to see an improvement in the well-being of their employees, which can ultimately increase productivity.
The options for how employers can support the well-being of their employees are endless. Some companies may already provide some, or all of the options discussed and may even offer benefits that employees are unaware of – such as wellness benefits under an existing health insurance plan.
It is important to note that all employee communications surrounding wellness activities should comply with current and proposed regulations. Additionally, managers should train to communicate with employees in a legally compliant manner, and spot potential issues. For example, managers cannot coerce or retaliate against an employee for a lack of participation in wellness activities because employee participation must be voluntary. For workers compensation purposes, many recommend that employees acknowledge in writing that their participation in wellness activities outside of the workplace is voluntary, and not a reasonable expectation of the workplace.
Training your managers and having legal counsel review written communication to your employees about wellness related activities will help to minimize your company’s risk against potential claims that may result from an employee’s participation in such activities.
At the end of the day, supporting the wellness of your employees supports the wellness of your organization, which in turn, supports the wellness of your community.
About the Author
Nicole C. Baldwin is an attorney in the San Diego office of Carothers DiSante & Freudenberger LLP, an award-winning California labor and employment law firm. With more than a decade of experience, Nicole advises clients on a range of employment law issues and is an expert on corporate wellness programs, regularly advising companies on policies and best practices. To contact Nicole, email her at [email protected] or call 858-646-0007.