Happy employees are productive employees, or so the standard thinking goes. Employee assistance programs are thought to help improve happiness and productivity by providing key support to employees going through personal challenges.


“EAPs are often a stand-alone benefit offered by employers for employees and their families at no cost to them. EAPs offer short-term, confidential, behavioral counseling focused on issues ranging from marriage and family issues to addictions and mental illness,” writes Katie McKy for the Chippewa Valley Business Report. EAPs are also known for decreasing employee absences, and for showing employees that the company cares, McKy writes.


It’s a cost-effective way to do so, Bill Heffernan and Gary Cohen write for Employee Benefit News. “Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show employers save between $5 and $16 for each dollar invested in an EAP,” they write. “No doubt, that’s a pretty good ROI.”


These plans are evolving with modern workplaces and employers should consider features like whether a plan they’re considering offers management consultations, job-performance referrals (to be used when an employee’s performance starts slipping) and high-quality professionals to work with the company’s employees.


Mobile integration is also becoming more important, according to an Employee Benefit News staff report on the topic. “Recent innovations in technology and predictive analytics are changing, and will continue to drive EAP and wellness service delivery,” according to the story. “Some EAPs have already begun to include secure video and evidence-based smartphone apps into their product offering to help manage health conditions such as stress, depression, diabetes, and sleep. These trends will continue through 2015 and beyond.”


Employers should also consider how they’ll measure the success of their programs. David Creelman, writing for Ere Media, suggests incorporating some simple measurement tools as a part of your HR analysis. For example, ask employees to answer some standard questions before they receive assistance. Ask the same questions afterward. “If the outcomes improve then that is a strong piece of evidence that the EAP is working,” Creelman writes.


You might also consider checking those answers against other information your company collects, like attendance. “This is a great example of HR analytics,” Creelman writes. “We have an answerable question: ’Does the EAP work?’ (It’s) a far cry from the traditional world of buying EAP services because it’s ’nice.’”