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Lesser known EAP benefits: Help Keep Your Employees in the Know
By Pauline Krutilla, Director of EAP at Aurora Health Care
 
Many HR professionals realize that offering a full scope of EAP benefits — including those that address “work-life balance” issues — makes good financial sense. Promoting some of the lesser known EAP benefits can boost employee retention and satisfaction, leading to a healthier and more productive workplace.
 
Exploring EAP’s ‘softer side’
Consider this: What family of a high school student exploring college options wouldn’t want some help in searching for scholarships? Are there any new parents who wouldn’t want some help and direction in narrowing down their childcare options? Did you know that some EAPs can find current childcare openings, so parents only have to interview a select few?
 
Here are some often underutilized benefits offered by a number of EAP providers.
 
Financial Services (yes, personal finances can impact the workplace)
Many EAP providers include financial counseling as part of their core program. However, this is often an underutilized EAP benefit. Employees may have concerns about confidentiality, if they contact the EAP — fearing that their supervisor or manager will learn about their personal problems. Employees need to be reassured that EAP services are completely confidential.
 
Current research shows that financial issues are the number one cause of stress among employees and stress is the number one cause of deteriorating heath.1
Aurora’s EAP offers members an opportunity to have private 30-minute phone consultations with an experienced financial coach on various financial topics. They can discuss any financial matter causing them stress or concern.
 
Typical areas of concern include:
• credit issues
• debt and budgeting assistance
• mortgage issues
• tax planning
• retirement savings
• college planning questions
 
Elder Care information and referrals
At Aurora EAP we are helping increasing numbers of employees who are not only raising their own children, but also caring for elderly parents or other family members. The demands of this “sandwich generation” can be overwhelming. Trained EAP specialists can assess the situation and connect employees with the right support services to help them and their loved ones.
 
Childcare consultations and adopting referrals
EAP experts also can guide parents through the array of childcare options and help them choose the most appropriate arrangement for their growing family. Your EAP most likely maintains a comprehensive list of childcare providers and adoption referrals. Many EAPs have resources to help employees:
• find quality childcare
• research the best schools, or
• locate other local childcare resources (after-school care, activities and summer camps)
 
Legal consultations
Any type of legal problem can cause worry, fear and stress that carries over into the workplace. EAPs that offer legal consultations help employees work through the confusion of legal issues. For example, Aurora’s EAP can arrange a phone consultation with an experienced attorney who can evaluate the situation and offer potential solutions, when employees need unbiased legal information or guidance.
 
HR’s role in spreading the word
A frequent barrier to using EAP services is employees’ lack of trust or awareness of privacy policies. Education and communication are effective ways to spread the word that the EAP is available to help with many work-life issues. This can help overcome any possible stigma attached to using the EAP — by assuring complete confidentiality.
 
HR professionals can communicate frequently about the availability of the EAP, reinforcing the message that a wide range of no-cost assistance is available to help meet challenges of modern-day living. Both traditional and lesser-known EAP services are designed to help employees balance the conflicting demands of work and personal life. This is done by proactively addressing any issues that may be preventing employees from being fully engaged at work. 
 
 1 “2015 Stress in America™, American Psychological Association, http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2015/snapshot.aspx
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