Thursday, February 26, 2009

Stress from Financial Problems: Employee Assistance Programs Can Help

With two great friends and colleagues, Dr. Michael A. Richard and Dr. William S. Hutchison, I just enjoyed seeing our new book – the 4th Edition of our EAP book: Employee Assistance Programs: Wellness/Enhancement Programming. And while this book is an exceptionally valuable source for EAP professionals and students taking courses in the subject area, it also highlights some of the daunting challenges for employees and the businesses and companies trying to assist them. Among the many kinds of issues and problems that can face employees, over the past year “financial problems” understandably is on the rise.

Firstly, let’s recall that Employee Assistance Programs are employee benefit programs offered by many employers, typically in conjunction with a health insurance plan. EAPs are intended to help employees deal with personal problems that might adversely impact their work performance, health, and well-being. EAPs generally include assessment, short-term counseling and referral services for employees and their household members.

Secondly, with regard to the rising financial problems employees are having, a review of research in the early part of this decade reveals that about one in every four American workers feels seriously distressed by their personal financial situation. More recent surveys show the situation has worsened. According to an April 2008 survey by Kaiser Family Foundation, almost two-thirds (61%) of Americans report having “serious financial problems.” These problems mentioned include paying for gas (44%), getting a good-paying job or a raise (29%), paying for health care and health insurance (28%), paying rent or mortgage (19%), paying for food (18%), problems with credit card debt or other personal debt (18%), and losing money in the stock market (16%).

A 2008 study by the American Psychological Association, reported that most Americans are stressed and anxious about their financial future. For example, about 8 in 10 people identify money (81%) and the economy (80%) as significant sources of stress in their lives. Other sources of stress include work (67%), family health problems (67%), housing costs (62%), relationships (62%), personal health concerns (61%), job stability (56%), and personal safety (48%). Furthermore, a majority of employees feel unprepared financially for economic strain, with less than a third of employees (29%) saying they had enough savings to cover more than six months of life expenses.

A growing body of research has also begun to show the link between workers’ financial stability and their productivity and performance at work. For example, in one follow-up study of 436 employees who had used a financial advisor through a referral from a national EAP, 91% of the workers found the intervention to be effective, 74% had reduced stress, 67% had improved health and well-being, 39% had less work absenteeism, and 36% had improved work productivity.

We know that EAPs can be helpful to their employees (and there are many direct and indirect benefits for the companies offering EAP assistance). Thus, if you are having serious financial problems and your company has an EAP, I strongly urge you to use it.

Question: What are you doing to cope with the current financial crisis?



Mostly Happy Thoughts said...

Hi Bill.
Just stopping by to say hello. It's been a while :) I updated my blog- FINALLY. I am getting married! Can you believe it?

p.s I used the EAP program at my last job and found it very helpful :) I think it is an excellent program.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hey there MHT,

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS! You for sure must be excited (the pics on your blog certainly reveal a happy woman).

I'm delighted to hear that you had a positive experience with your EAP -- I ran EAPs for a number of years and know how helpful they can be... if employees avail themselves to them.

Thanks for the visit... and all the best of luck and happiness!


Anonymous said...

My family is doing a few things differently due to the economy. We eat at home more, buy pay-per-view movies instead of going out, go to parks, etc. This Spring and Summer we plan to do more camping rather than elaborate trips. We still have fun but we're finding more creative and inexpensive ways to do it. The great thing is that the kids don't really seem to care. The only thing they care about is getting their share of our time and attention (we're lucky they're still young!).

As an aside - my company will be introducing an EAP next month. I'll let you know how it goes :)

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello again Maconole – always glad to see you.

It indeed sounds like you and your wife have made some excellent modifications in your and your family’s lifestyle – without eliminating the most important thing: all of you are having fun together. As long as children feel loved and special, it doesn’t matter if they’re in a tent or an exclusive resort. And if you continue to be modest and they experience love and specialness, there’s a good possibility that their expectations will remain on the “who we’re with and what we’re doing” versus “where we’re at.” Excellent!

I hope your company’s EAP is a good one and people use it. (And you may want to share some of the data in my Post with those in charge… along with an appreciative “Thank You” for the company’s initiating the Program. I know the irony – “when employees need an EAP the most is when companies are in the worse position to afford one.” But as an executive recently said to me, “On one hand we can’t afford an EAP; but when we look at what’s going on with the people in our company, we can’t afford not to have one.”

Thanks again for the visit and sharing!


xina said...

Hi Dr. Bill,
First, I love your new website -- great job to both you and Barb!
Regarding this post, I am trying to conserve money by remembering words of wisdom from my all too practical grandmother. She would say "you only need one fork, one knife, and one spoon". This helps me to differentiate between needs and wants.
All the very best to you,

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello Xina,
Thanks for your kind and gracious comments about my new Website -- it took some work and your comments are most appreciated.
Also, I like your grandmother's wise words -- indeed and good way to differentiate between needs and wants.
All the very best to you as well -- hope to see you again,

Harley Davidson said...

Thanks...great job to both you and Barb! I think it is an excellent program..All the very best to you..

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Thank you for your very kind and gracious comment!
Keep the shiney side up...

Autobuynsell said...

Just dropping by to say hello.I bought this book for a grad school course and it definitely served its purpose. it is clear and well organized, and the material is fairly up to date, but there are no diagrams or other pictures used for description.
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