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Why EAP Programs Are Underutilized by Employees

16 million people in the United States suffer from depression. That means 6.9% of Americans struggle to function in day to day life.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are offered by businesses to help those employees who are tormented by depression. But, sadly, many workers do not take advantage of these programs.

Here are four common reasons why EAP programs are not fully taken advantage of.

Programs are Not Formally Introduced to Staff

The old saying, “If you build it they will come,” is a bit cliché, and a bit incomplete. If you build it and let them know it’s there, they will come. Often when it comes to EAP programs, there’s no formal introduction of the benefits.

A flyer or pamphlet in the break room or by the coffee pot will most likely get overlooked. And, an email during the middle of the busy work day will likely get set aside and forgotten.

When you are introducing your EAP to your employees consider the following tips:

  • Hold an informational meeting offsite.
  • Let a third party introduce the program. This could include the provider or the third-party counselors who offer counseling within the program.
  • Encourage workers to ask HR question about the program in private or via email.
  • Remind them that HIPAA laws protect their privacy.

Information is not Effectively Communicated to Employees

Despite your efforts to roll out your EAP program effectively, there will still be employees who are apprehensive. For this reason, it’s in the best interest of both you and your workers that you regularly remind them about EAP services.

A few practical ways to do this are by using the benefit of technology.

  • Create an EAP policy explanation, and send both paper copies and digital copies to employees.
  • Create a resource section on your website that guides employees through the process of using the EAP.
  • Send out monthly newsletters via email that talks about how mental health issues are common in the workplace.

There’s a Stigma for Needing Help

Despite your education efforts or your efforts to effectively roll out your EAP, there will still be a stigma associated with needing mental or emotional help.

One way to help overcome that stigma is to showcase how common it is. Sprint, the cellular giant, is an excellent example of a company who found ways to encourage employees to take advantage of its EAP.

Sprint invited Ryan Lefebvre, a sportscaster from the Kansas City Royals, to speak to employees about his battle with depression. Also, Sprint began creating webinars that employees could watch on their own that discussed “stress and resiliency.”

This approach increased the number of workers who took advantages of Sprint’s EAP by 30%

Fear of an Anonymity Breach

Despite all the promises that EAPs are anonymous, workers still fear that their bosses will find out the personal issues. You can remind them of HIPAA all you want, and they are still going to fear that you will know something you shouldn’t.

To circumvent these concerns, you can use technology to your advantage and publish a weekly column about privacy in a monthly Wellness Newsletter to reassure workers that your intentions are to keep them happy and healthy at work.


There will always be a stigma when it comes to mental health. But, a stigma is not an excuse for silently suffering. If you want to maximize the potential of your employees, you will go to great lengths to make sure they are taking care of themselves. You wouldn’t turn a blind eye if one of your workers were walking around bleeding, don’t turn a blind eye if they are silently suffering. Show them you care, and guide them through the channels of using the EAP you have in place for them.

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