Many private companies and all government institutions offer workers Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs. These programs began in the 1940s to offer help to workers struggling with alcohol use disorder, so employees could be less disruptive, healthier, and more productive. Since the 1970s, it has been mandatory for state and federal government to offer EAPs for employees, and many private companies have followed the model to ensure their employees are stable, healthy, and focused on work.
EAPs now offer a range of substance abuse treatment options, as well as help for mental health problems, eating disorders, stress management, and other chronic issues.
EAPs offer confidential services, so people who wish to seek substance abuse treatment, or treatment for another covered condition, do not have to worry about becoming the subject of gossip in their office environment or having their manager or supervisor treat them differently based on perceived disability.
Why EAPs Are Important
Obviously, the ability to earn income is an important part of most people’s lives, and work takes up a lot of time in the average adult’s life. Maintaining employment is important to a person’s sense of wellbeing and personal stability. If a person abuses drugs or alcohol, they may be more stressed at work due to obsessive thoughts about the substance, or their performance can get worse if they are intoxicated at work.
Workplace stress may trigger substance abuse, so EAPs can help to manage workplace issues. If a person struggles with mental health issues or personal problems, these can trigger substance abuse problems, which in turn affect workplace performance. An EAP can offer support for a person to seek help, through a rehabilitation program, therapy, support groups, and other avenues.
Currently, EAPs can help with:
- Mental illness
- Alcohol abuse
- Substance abuse
- Workplace conflicts, including verbal or physical abuse or bullying
- Crisis management
- Emergency preparedness
- Financial problems
- Legal problems or questions
- Domestic violence or intimate partner abuse
- Workplace restructuring
- Significant others and/or dependents with mental health or substance abuse problems
Contact Us About Our Availability
Do You Have Questions? | We Are More Than Happy to Provide Answers
Uncovering Substance Abuse Problems in the Workplace
Substance abuse problems
can be identified with these three events:
- Job performance problems: If an employee begins to perform poorly, experiences attendance issues, or shows social issues interacting with coworkers, managers, clients, etc., they may be referred to an EAP.
- Self-referring: An employee may seek help from an EAP if they believe their substance abuse is creating problems in their workplace, work environment, job performance, or quality of work.
- Coworker referral: While EAPs are confidential, a coworker or supervisor may notice an employee’s performance or social problems in the workplace. This individual may refer the employee to the EAP or ask them to attend a meeting with a supervisor about the EAP.
Formal or Informal EAP Referral
If an employee’s substance abuse becomes problematic in the workplace, the person may face a referral to the EAP. This can be either formal or informal.
- Formal referral: This type of referral involves an external intervention in the employee’s job or social performance. For example, a supervisor may bring up the employee’s declining work performance during a performance review or a meeting specifically set up to address the performance issues. The supervisor may recommend or require that the employee review options offered in the EAP in order to get help for underlying issues contributing to poor performance.
- Informal referral: Although this typically occurs in the workplace, an informal referral is not part of a disciplinary action. More often, it is a recommendation from a coworker or supervisor in an unstructured environment or “around the water cooler.”
How EAPs Treat or Prevent Substance Abuse in the Workplace
EAPs do not specifically refer workers to substance abuse treatment programs; however, they can help prevent substance abuse through education and help employees understand health benefits offered by the company in the event that they need treatment for a substance abuse problem.
- Education programs help employees understand how substance abuse negatively impacts the workplace. Many of these interventions focus on changing perception of casual alcohol or drug consumption and help employees and supervisors learn how casual consumption can turn into addiction.
- Health promotion is a growing focus in many workplaces, since chronic health issues like heart disease or diabetes can also negatively impact workplace performance. Using health standards like cholesterol levels, exercise, and weight management, an underlying substance abuse disorder may be discovered as a problem contributing to other health issues. The employee can then be encouraged to seek help.
- Peer intervention ties into the informal referral process. By educating all employees on the signs of substance use disorders and informing them of EAP offerings, they will be better able to encourage each other to seek help before a substance use disorder becomes too problematic.
- Drug testing is becoming a requirement for many jobs, especially those that involve interaction with customers, children, or heavy machinery. Many employers require drug testing as part of the application process, and several positions may use random drug screenings to prevent injury or abuse on the job.
- Short-term counseling is offered for any employee struggling with stress, including from substance abuse. The goal of this type of counseling is to help the employee understand that help is available by referring the employee to health insurance coverage and outside resources. Counseling in the workplace is not designed to be long-term help; instead, it is a form of intervention that leads to more specific, ongoing help.
Support for Overcoming Substance Abuse
EAPs were originally designed to help employees end alcohol abuse problems, so they could perform better in the workplace and maintain consistent employment with one employer. Although EAPs now offer many types of programs, helping employees find substance abuse treatment is still a major component of these programs. Employees and supervisors learn about EAPs through orientation and education programs, so they know counseling and referral assistance are available. EAPs do not offer coverage for rehabilitation programs, but they can refer an employee to an appropriate rehabilitation program and manage health insurance coverage for the program.
Ending an addiction is not just about becoming a more productive employee; it is also about becoming a healthier person, with better personal and familial relationships in addition to stable employment. When a person has a well-rounded, stable, and satisfying life, they are more likely to be a better employee, a more productive member of society, and a good citizen.