The dollars and sense of EAP services

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) provide psychological services such as professional counselling to support the mental wellness needs of employees at the workplace.

The implementation of corporate wellness programmes and/or EAPs has been linked to benefits such as better job satisfaction and reduced absenteeism (Parks & Steelman, 2008; Czabala, Charzynska, & Mroziak, 2011; McCleod, 2001; see also McCleod & Henderson, 2003), lower levels of stress and greater use of stress management techniques (Czabala et al., 2011), and employees reporting fewer  difficulties with work due to mental and emotional health issues (Selvik, Stephenson, Plaza, & Sugden, 2004). Specifically, these studies have evaluated workplace promoting mental health programmes and documented their benefits at the level of the individual employee.

Specific programmes to teach employees strategies for stress management have also been found to be effective in reducing stress levels and increasing stress management behaviours. Specifically, stress innoculation training (Cecil & Forman, 1990) and cognitive-behavioural training (Tunnecliffe, Leach, & Tunnecliffe, 1986; Leung, Chiang, Chui, Mak, & Wong, 2011) achieve these for teachers, who perennially report  high levels of occupational stress (Austin, Shah, & Muncer, 2005; Griffith, Steptoe, & Cropley, 1999). The value of promoting workplace mental wellness to the individual is evident enough.

Stronger support for workplace mental health promotion can be found in the figures that workplace stress costs businesses each year. Productivity losses related to personal and family health problems cost U.S. employers $1,685 per employee a year, or $225.8 billion annually (Stewart, Ricci, Chee, & Morganstein, 2003). A meta-analysis by Baicker, Cutler, and Song (2010) computes a fall of about US$3.27 in medical cost and a fall of US$2.73 in absenteeism cost for every dollar spent on a wellness programme. Another meta-analysis of 56 studies by Chapman (2005) reveals an average saving of 25 to 26% in absenteeism and health costs from wellness programmes.

In a report for the Harvard Business Review, Berry, Mirabito, and Baun (2010) distil the solutions for effective workplace wellness programmes. They comprise good management leadership, alignment of the programme with organizational culture and vision, implementation of a comprehensive wellness programme, affordability and accessibility of the programme, good rapport with providers/vendors, and good communication of the wellness message.

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