How to set up an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

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TL;DR:
  • One of the best ways to boost the success of your EAP or wellbeing service is to ensure its scope and support genuinely meets the needs of your workforce.
  • The key steps of setting up an EAP include establishing your goals, building your EAP committee, evaluating EAP providers and communicating your offering.
  • Modern EAP alternatives, like Sonder, offer real-time access to your team's wellbeing data making it easy for you to continually review the success and impact of your wellbeing solution.

If you've decided to launch an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at your company, you're likely wondering: what steps do I need to take to set up an EAP?

Before you even start comparing EAP providers, it's essential you know what support services are important to your employees and whether mental health support alone is going to cut it. For example we're seeing a rise in the use of our in-app safety features outside of business hours, revealing that employees are looking for companies to provide 24/7 safety support. And 35% of all Sonder support cases are medical related, proving employee needs extend well beyond just mental health counselling.

To take the guesswork out of setting up your EAP, we've created your five-step guide to planning and implementing your Employee Assistance Program. Plus, information on how alternative EAP providers can fast-track the time it takes to get your support services up and running.

Step 1. Establish your EAP goals

The first step to setting up an EAP (or a modern alternative) is to clarify your objectives. Every organisation is unique and faces different challenges when it comes to fostering engaged, productive teams.

As an employer, there are a number of workplace challenges that can be tackled by introducing an EAP, including:

  • Employee churn: If employees are unable to receive the support they need from their current employer, chances are they'll look elsewhere.
  • Absenteeism: According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, 25% of workers took time off each year for stress-related reasons, with a total of 3.2 days of work lost per worker per year due to workplace stress.
  • Productivity: Presenteeism (a.k.a. Being unable to work to one's full ability due to the negative impacts of stress and poor wellbeing) can cause a drop in productivity at both an individual and organisational level.

"45% of employees left their jobs due to a poor mental health environment."

- Source: Employer of choice study | Beyond Blue and Instinct and Reason, 2021

Start your EAP roll-out journey by establishing your key goals and success metrics. From boosting employee retention to boosting productivity and improving return to work rates, clarify exactly what KPIs you'll use to measure the impact of your EAP.

Step 2. Build your EAP committee

The next step in choosing the right EAP is to establish a committee. This group should be a mix of employees from different departments, including human resources (HR), and various levels within the organisation. The committee's responsibilities include:

  1. Assessing employee needs and concerns.
  1. Evaluating potential EAP models, alternatives and services.
  1. Developing a strategy to implement the chosen EAP or wellbeing solution.
  1. Ensuring the program aligns with the company's business goals and employee wellness objectives.

This diverse committee ensures the EAP is tailored to meet the specific needs of all employees, thus maximising its effectiveness and ROI.

💡 Sonder Tip: The best way to boost the utilisation of your EAP is to bring your employees on the journey and ensure they have a meaningful voice in the EAP selection process. Run focus groups, anonymous surveys and company-wide polls to assess what scope of services is most important to your team.

Step 3. Evaluate your EAP provider options

Now, it's time to compare your options and evaluate which EAP provider is right for your organisation. When it comes to choosing the right wellbeing services, there are 10 factors you should consider, including:

  1. Scope of care: Does the provider offer holistic support across mental health, medical concerns and safety issues?
  1. Hours of care: Is support available 24/7 or only during business hours?
  1. Critical incident support: Are employees able to gain rapid support during crisis moments?
  1. Accreditations and qualifications: Does the provider offer access to qualified professionals?
  1. Digital self-help: Are self-service tools and resources available for employees?
  1. Balancing human and digital support: How does the provider blend tech and the human touch?
  1. Utilisation rates: What are the provider's average utilisation rates?
  1. Engagement rates: How does the provider promote and incentivise ongoing engagement?
  1. Data and insights: What reporting is available to track trends in your wellbeing strategy?
  1. Business impact: How can you assess the impact of your EAP on your business?

Want to compare EAPs and discover what makes EAP alternatives different? Download our free ultimate EAP buyer's guide, packed with insider tips, practical checklists and even a step-by-step guide to writing a convincing EAP business case.

Step 4. Communicate your EAP offering

50% of frontline hospital doctors did not know how to access their own EAP. This stat reveals a key consideration when setting up your EAP: a lack of awareness of what services are available and how to access them.

When designing your EAP offering, it's essential to clearly document your EAP policy and ensure all employees are aware of the scope of support available to them. In practical terms, this includes:

  • A clearly documented EAP policy: Ensure this documentation explains what services are provided, who they are available to, how to access them and any other key inclusions or exclusions of your EAP.
  • A centralised resource hub: Make it easy for your employees to engage with your EAP by ensuring all resources are stored in one consolidated location, ideally a mobile app that centralises self-service resources with on-demand human support.
  • A list of key contacts: Take the guesswork out of seeking support by ensuring employees are aware of who to contact in the event of an emergency, crisis moment or EAP-related issue.
  • A launch communications strategy: Run workshops and webinars to announce the launch of your EAP, followed up with company-wide emails that break down the key components of your EAP.
  • An ongoing engagement strategy: To boost the uptake of your EAP, ensure you have an ongoing plan for keeping employees engaged (from monthly email updates to quarterly workshops and events aligned with key wellbeing moments, like RUOK? Day).

Step 5. Check in and review the effectiveness of your EAP

Once your EAP is up and running, it's important to continually keep tabs on its effectiveness. The best EAPs aren't static, set-and-forget policies but are continually evolving programs.

The best EAP providers will make it easy to gain insights into the uptake and effectiveness of your program.

Member insights dashboard

At Sonder, an EAP alternative, we allow teams to drill down into their employee's health and wellbeing based on a range of factors, from comparing departments to store locations or even time periods.

Our complete care platforms are utilised up to 20x more than traditional EAPs, meaning the sheer volume of anonymised data we collect represents a broader cross-section of your people at various stages of their wellbeing, not just those in crisis.

Plus, our dashboards update in real-time to give your decision-makers the insights they need to take proactive steps to address challenges and trends as they emerge.

Sonder EAP comparison

Our mobile app also offers immediate, 24/7 support from a team of safety, medical and mental health professionals - plus onsite help for time-sensitive scenarios.

Interested in a modern solution to employee support? Book a demo with Sonder to explore how we can help enhance your employee experience with our comprehensive care platform.

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Sonder is reimagining health, safety and wellbeing support. Sonder proves human centric care leads to earlier intervention. Sonder impacts one person at a time to drive meaningful change across an organisation. Sonder understands people and how to support them.

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