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Prepare for when “life” gets in the way of business

Jerry Seinfeld famously commented that looking down from space, the aliens must think dogs are the leaders and humans their servants because we run around picking up after them. It’s a valid point (and in some families may be true).

Similarly, I can’t help but think those aliens are also under the impression that our work lives are fantastic and worry-free.  We do long-term planning, conduct quarterly reviews and provide annual reports. This implies that business is predictable, routinized and easily managed, right?

If only it were that easy!

As we all know, business is hard enough, but what makes everyone’s job truly challenging is that “life” inevitably gets in the way of business.

Kids need to be picked up. An elderly parent needs assistance around the home. You’re not getting enough sleep. The college fund is empty. The neighbor just backed into your car. Who is going to watch the pets while you’re on vacation?

None of these are implausible scenarios. So why then, as business leaders, managers and planners, do so many of us fail to account for the predictable problems that come from all of life’s unpredictabilities?

For all these reasons and more, it’s time to consider adding an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to your company’s benefits, or reminding your employees about the value of the program your company already has in place.

Often wrongly labeled as a resource only for those coping with emotional distress or a personal loss, modern EAP programs are better thought of as a personal assistant. For example, depending on the plan purchased, Anthem’s EAP offers online, telephonic and in-person services to help people meet their personal goals and improve their overall well-being. This includes helping with things employees may not know their EAP is prepared to do, including:

  • Locating a child or elder care provider
  • Offering vacation planning tips and household budgeting tools
  • Assisting with a financial concern or legal issue
  • Resolving a substance abuse problem for themselves or a loved one
  • Providing free identity theft monitoring
  • Conferring about college planning and providing career advice
  • Helping with car and home buying advice

Employers offer EAP benefits for a variety of reasons, but at the end of the day, most do so because it benefits company and employee alike.  As an employer-sponsored program, EAP services are available not only to employees but also to their household members at no additional cost.

Anthem’s EAP costs around $12 to $20 per year, per employee. That may sound like a lot, but when you consider that companies often see a return on investment of $2 to $5 per employee on every dollar spent on an EAP, that’s money well spent. EAPs help employees and their family members resolve personal concerns before they grow into major issues. The result is a better focus on work when at work and an overall happier employee.

Some other lesser-known benefits of an EAP for the employer include:

  • Attracting and keeping top performers by offering a more valuable employee benefit plan
  • Increased productivity resulting from giving employees an easy and confidential way to get the help they need to manage personal issues
  • Lower use of sick time as employees take fewer “mental health” days
  • Enhancements to your human resources services and improved management resulting from the EAP helping your team respond appropriately to workplace situations
  • through training and workshops; and
  • Reduced costs and increased risk management resulting from offering employees and their household members face-to-face counseling sessions – at no cost to them – before using their behavioral health benefits through their health plan.

Remember, as a manager or business owner you cannot compel your employees to eat healthier, reduce their stress levels or quit smoking. What you can do is create an environment and culture that enables your employees to make positive changes and supports them along the way. That’s what workplace wellness is all about, and those are the services an EAP provides.

To learn more about Employee Assistance Programs, talk to your health insurer or insurance broker. You can also find additional information about Anthem’s EAP at www.anthemeap.com.

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Nobile is a 20-year veteran of the insurance industry whose experience includes time with Rush Prudential Health Plans, Aetna, and United Healthcare. Prior to joining Anthem, Nobile served as the Director of Sales and Account Management for the Midwest region at UniCare, a health benefits company based in Chicago and owned by Anthem’s parent company and also ran UniCare’s Eastern Region with offices.

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