The Balancing Act of Work and Life: How EAPs can work for you

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As part of the Plan Member Experience Team, I have helped employees access the Employee Assistance Programs offered as part of their employer’s benefit program.  When people think of an Employee Assistance Program, many people think that it is just a counselling service, however many EAPs have grown to offer a variety of services.

Jane* called our office, and inquired about her company’s Employee Assistance Program.  Jane was going through a divorce and wanted to know if any services were available for her situation.  Jane’s EAP provider gave her access to legal advice from a Family Lawyer, financial and credit counselling from a certified Accountant, family counselling for herself and her children, and support in locating a child care facility in her new area** as she was now the primary caregiver.

Steve* had become a caregiver for his elderly parents.  He noticed that the stress of competing responsibilities was negatively affecting his day to day life.  After contacting his company’s EAP provider, Steve received advice on the process of accessing homecare support for his parents, a few sessions of personal counselling and was even provided with a list of lawn service companies**.  The end result was that the EAP service provided him with the tools to make his home, work and eldercare responsibilities more manageable.

Employee Assistance Programs offer confidential access to a variety of counsellors and support services.  Their purpose is to assist you and your family in working through personal issues which may ultimately have a negative impact on your performance at work.

EAP programs can vary in the scope of benefits provided, however some common areas of concern that can be addressed through an Employee Assistance Program are:

  • work-related problems
  • personal difficulties
  • family difficulties
  • substance abuse problems
  • challenges with work-life balance

When accessing your Employee Assistance Program:

  • Many EAP providers offer access to counselling or work-life balance resources through their website.
  • The first point of contact when calling the EAP phone line is an Intake worker.  They will open a file for you, assess your current situation, and coordinate the referral to a professional with specialty in your area of concern.
  • When contacting the EAP provider, you should have your group identification card available. The EAP Intake worker will verify your eligibility and the coverage available through your group plan.
  • Once you are referred to a specialized professional, the counsellor will contact you to arrange sessions for face-face counselling, telephone counselling or other specialized services, keeping in mind your needs and schedule.
  • EAP providers take scheduling into consideration with regard to the timing of appointments for multiple employees of the same company.  This ensures that anonymity and privacy is maintained.  If employees of the same company are accessing the same provider, appointments are staggered to avoid co-workers from bumping into each other between sessions.

It is very important to note that if you do not feel comfortable with the counsellor to whom you’ve been referred, you should contact the Employee Assistance phone number and express your concerns.  One of the Intake worker’s responsibilities is to ensure that you are seeing a counsellor with whom you feel comfortable and open.

*Names have been changed to protect our clients’ identities

**As not all Employee Assistance Programs include the services indicated in this blog, please refer to your Employee Assistance Program for a listing of the benefits offered through your program.