Sample research paper on Employment Assistant Programs.

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In any work place a significant number of employees perform below their potential due to chronic personal problems. Such problems may include marital problems, financial difficulties, legal issues, substance abuse, psychiatric and career problems.  Employees affected by such acute personal problems are likely to be involved in work place accidents, make more insurance claim, frequent absenteeism and requests sick leaves. In the whole, this will lead to high loss of working days and comprise productivity. It is believed   personal problems contribute in loss of more work time than industrial actions.
Substance abuse especially alcoholism have been a major concern in work place for years. Potential problems associated with alcohol abuse affects all sectors, but certain occupation by their nature is more prone to hazards and accidents as a result of alcohol related problem.  Such problems include accidents as employees report to work intoxicated, absenteeism, poor performance and others. Transport industry is among industries sensitive to alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Whether it is by road, air or water, alcohol abuse may lead to a devastating impact on the life of the workers and of those whose safety they are responsible.
Likewise the hospitality industry which covers a wide range of working environments such as hotels, restaurants and bars, inns, pubs and taverns are prone to this problem. The working environment in the hospitality industry is especially unique since selling of alcohol is part of the business. Alcohol is in abundant and its consumption is viewed favorably. There is a high rate of alcohol related problems in hospitality industry than in many other occupations. Alcohol is known to trigger family financial and emotional stress.
Financial problem is listed as one of the major cause of stress in the work place. Employees with personal problems get distracted from delivering efficiently in the work place lowering their productivity. They spend time worrying how to settle their bills, taking calls from their creditors and day dreaming how a financial stress life would be like.  Such workers are prone to work place accidents as they are not focused to their work.
It is very clear how important an employee assistant program can be helpful to both employer and employee. It increases the employees’ productivity and the quality of life of the employee.
Employee assistant program
Employee Assistant programs (EAPs) are work place based programs which operate within an organization. They identify distressed employees, encourage them to face and resolve their problems, provide counseling and facilitate treatment to those in need (Steel. 1998). Some of the issues that EAPs deals with include substance abuse, emotional stress, financial and legal problems, and family issues. These services are usually offered free to employees and paid for by the employer. An employer makes arrangement with a third party provider who manage the program by offering specialized services such as financial advice, attorney’s service, counseling and others.
It is not clear when employers started offering counseling and related services to their workers. It is in record however, that in 1917 a New York City department store called Macy’s provided an office space   dedicated to helping workers resolve their personal problem (Darrel, 1994).  Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and Western Electrical were among other companies that   pioneered in this area.
Substantial EAPs activities emerged after Second World War.  The main focus of such programs was alcohol abuse.  Many businesses had identified alcohol abuse as a major work place problem necessitating establishment of alcoholism programs. The concern of alcohol abuse also gave rise to Alcoholic Anonymous organization. The programs were operated by recovered alcoholics. They trained managers and supervisors how to identify alcoholic through such symptoms as shaking of the hands, bloodshot eyes and alcohol in the breath.  Though the program gave admirable results they hand no techniques of identifying potential alcohol abuser who did not potray obvious symptoms (Darrel, 1994). The early EAPs were a secret affair to protect the image of the business.
From 1970 onwards the EAPs opened up and included other personal problems affecting employees apart from alcoholism. The employees started initiating their referral without necessarily involving the supervisor. Professional counselors from outside became more involved in the intervention efforts.
Today EAPs are not only managed by professional but cater to specific needs of the employees. They are able to keep pace with emerging issues. A good example is EAPs that have started dealing with gambling related problem among others
 Cost to employer and employees
Approximately quarter of American workers are afflicted by varying personal problems that are estimated to cost about $ 15,000 per year per every effected worker.   Two decades ago about 10% workers were reported to routinely experience such problems affecting the profitability of the business the number has since gone up to 25% (Lenhart, 2005). Among the cost that an employee incurs as a result of workers with financial distress, family problems and others include reduced productivity.  About 20 hours in a month is lost per employee which is equivalent to about $ 7,000 per month per employee.  This is caused by a worker’s distraction, loss of interest in work and frequent absenteeism (Lenhart, 2005)..
Happy employees are the best asset to any business. The difference between an employee who is merely present and just putting in the hours and the one who is actively participating in business makes a huge difference on the businesses’ profitability.  There is more lost in terms of productivity by employees who just turn for work and remain docile than the actual absenteeism (Employers Health Coalition, 2000, p. 3). This not just an issue of pay and benefits the employees get from employment it’s about how happy and satisfied such an employee feels. It requires serious thought and no amount of money will solve.  
In a work place, employees depend on each other to successively get work done. It therefore means absenteeism cases are not only felt by the business in terms of low productivity but by other employees. In absence of a co-worker other employees have to work harder to cover the gap. The absent employee may feels isolated and guilty for being out of work place. If customers normally have a face to face interaction with the employee then they may be disappointed and seek for other option. When an employee skills are critical to an ongoing project it may stall cause even more loss. Any problem therefore, resulting to absenteeism of an employee is a problem of the business. Since employee happiness impact directly to his/her productivity, personal problems can hinder an employee performance.  While such problems can be fixed quickly, often the problem extends over a long period of time. Although personal problems will impact on employees differently, there is always change of altitude and behavior.  This will eventually be manifested in performance.  In today’s complex world every person will have to deal with one or more personal problems. It is how the person afflicted and the support they get in resolving the problem that determines the effects of such problems (Darrel, 19940
Similarly more than 60% of work place accident is related to stress or substance abuse. Troubled workers are likely to cause injury or even death to themselves and their co-workers. They also cause damage to machines and equipments.  Other cost incurred includes compensation claims (Lenhart, 2005).
Many of the doctor visits by workers are stress related.  Stressed related problems such as Hypertension, depression, insomnia, alcohol abuse, abdominal pain and others cost the businesses substantially in terms of health care.  The cost of health care, days not worked, loss of revenue can amount to staggering figures.  
The rate of employee’s turnover is on the increase. The number of workers that change jobs due to stress is significant. The change of job is seen by afflicted worker as a remedy to their problems. Unfortunately such workers end up postponing the problem and are likely to face the same in their new working place.  Personal problems are a major contributor to employees’ turnover. Retaining qualified people who are good at what they do, is profitable for business. Supporting employees to solve such problems is a sure way of preventing valuable employees from leaving their jobs.  Many businesses have realized that simply replacing one employee with another is an expensive affair.  The cost of replacing a valuable employee can amount up to 70% to 200% of such an employee’s annual salary (Kaye and Evans, 2000).  This includes the advertising, recruiting, orientation and training of the incoming employee.  It is cheaper to consider employee support as an option to retain employees in order to create a successful business.
Most human resource departments are ill equipped to handle may personal problems afflicting workers. Some requires medical care, financial advice or counseling.  The constant attempt by the human resource workers trying to sort such troubled worker translate to distraction of fellow workers and loss of working time. Personal problems are even worse if they afflict an employee at a senior position. The rest of the employee will deteriorate in terms of performance caused by the way they are treated by their manager. The manger’s decision may be clouded by the problems he/she is experiencing and the business end up losing money.
For every cost an employer incurs as a result of troubled employees, the employee incurs equal loss or even more. The employer losses opportunity to progress career wise, the subsequent stagnation in low paying position compounds the person problems. The likelihood of such employees losing their jobs and income are also very high.
Hotel industry
Worsening health status, family and financial problems and substance abuse are a major cause of stagnating productivity in work places. The subsequent cost to the business and the employee affected are enormous.   In hotel industry these problems has been cited as an important factor in explaining employee’s turnover. The turnover has enormous impact on the industry’s profitability.  This is critical considering the dwindling number of skilled workers in this sector.  With every 1% increase in worker’s turnover the industry incurs about $ 15 million loss in profit translating to about $7, 550 at the individual unit level (Cleveland et al, 2007).   The job stress and family problems together have a great influence on an employee decision to leave an organization.  These problems may also increase the health care costs. Workers in   hospitality industry establish personal relation with clients. Such clients may associate the good services they receive from a facility with a certain worker. If such workers leave the organization the facility is likely to lose such clients also. The level of contact between the customers and the workers is very close. An employee distracted by personal problem will have a direct impact to the service being offered to a client.  In the event a client feels mistreated the consequences are immediate and the facility loses enormously.  Customers who feel unfairly treaded become problematic and may take a lot of the businesses’ time as the management tries to sooth him or her.
Though work and family issues have not been given much attention in hospitality industry, its nature has been associated with work-family conflict. The industry is characterized by odd working hours and frequent relocation. The subsequent work-family conflict is a cause of marital problems that has been associated with turnover intentions.  
In hospitality industry substance abuse is an acute problem may partly be attributed to the working environment. Restaurants, hotels, casinos and many others stay open for long hours, deal in alcohols and may be frequented by customers who are substance abusers themselves. A combination of all these factors fuels the substance abuse behavior. Investing in EAPS is beneficial to hospitality facilities through retention of successfully treaded employees and enhancing their productivity.  Getting rid of such workers does not necessarily solve the problem. With shortage of skilled personnel in the industry, increasing litigation due to wrongful termination, laws promoting drug free workplace and outlawing discrimination of recovering addicts has seen many employers invest in EAPs.  The cost benefit analysis has revealed many benefits to the employer and employee alike.
In the past the response of many of the hotel management to substance abuse has been to dismiss them an employee.  The mangers have realized however that screening new employees for substance abuse is an expensive affair at not realistic. In addition chances of recruiting a new drug abuser to replace the one who was dismissed are high. It is also a fact that the incoming and unemployed persons are likely to be abusing drugs than employees already working.  In this respect therefore employers have taken the option of sensitizing their employees, creating working environment that discourage drug abuse and encouraging employees affected to seek treatment.  Such treatment is facilitated by resident EAPs. While self-referral is preferable the management intervenes if performance is seen to be comprised.
Burnout in the hospitality industry is one of the common causes of stress in the work place. It results from conflict where the employees have to make a choice between competing demands. This is largely because the work involves people and interpersonal problem solving; need to offer high quality services and fierce competition within the industry.  Other factors include job insecurity and long working hours. Employees in hospitality industry travel a lot which alienate them from co-workers, work place and most importantly from their families. It is also caused by too much responsibility that is not commensurate to support and guidance offered to such employee.  The subsequent physiological and behavioral symptoms include headaches, nausea, insomnia and change in eating habit. This may lead to absenteeism, low concentration and lack of interested in work. The burnout problem may also lead to other personal problems such as substance abuse and marital problems.

Why retention, productivity and happy employees are important to running a successful workplace.
Supporting workers to resolve their personal problems has a direct impact on retention, productivity and happiness of the workers. The accruing benefits to the business are enormous. Apart from saving cost and retaining valuable skills within the business retention of existing workers prevent leaving workers from sharing crucial business information to the competitors.  A competitor who has well establishes employee assisting program may attract workers who have problems.  When employees’ well-being is catered for, they are more productive   and unlikely to live their job. It therefore follows that happiness is a critical tool for maximizing business performance.
In the current economic environment, psychologically healthy workers are an added advantage. Happy workers are better performers, which in turn has a direct impact on the organization and profitability.  Employees well being therefore gives a business a competitive edge.
Employee’s happiness includes positive emotions, good health and absence of negative emotions such as sadness.  A troubled employee attracts negative comments especially when the management focuses on what he/she failed to do.  Positive emotions should therefore be encouraged in the work place to improve employee’s attitude towards their work.
At individual level a happy worker are better decision makers and have better communication skills and interpersonal behaviors.  They tend to rapidly move up the career path and earn more.
Happiness of employees is the responsibility of the employers and the employees themselves. Employees should realize their well being affects their fellow workers who depend on their steadfast.  Employers have realized that apart from taking care of other attributes of a good working place such as gender and ethnicity balance and job security, employee’s happiness remains critical in job performance.  Employees well being has consistently shown superior job performance.  Statistically employee’s happiness has a significance correlation of 0.3-0.5. This means there is a significant relationship between performances and well being of the employees.
In the whole it makes business sense to help workers solve their problems. It is unproductive and unrealistic to think that the way to improve the performance and productivity of the work place is by recruiting employees who are already stable.  The seemingly stable employee will at one time get into trouble.
Importance of EAP
Many employers have realized the importance of being proactive in preventing workers to identify and solve personal problems. Such measures prevent personal issue from having serious medical and work place consequences.
The mode of service delivery of EAPs differs.  Some provide their services through a hotline. Employees are provided with a number which they can call and seek for help. The EAP then directs the employee to the relevant agencies that they can seek help depending on the nature of the issue. This mode of service delivery is particularly helpful to workers who would wish to remain anonymous (Darrel, 1994)
In other instances the EAPs may consist of one personnel in the human resource department or medical facility within the business. The person refers the affected worker to relevant external providers. This arrangement may not be very effective due to fear of stigmatization.  Lack of confidentiality is the main weakness. Some companies may come together and establish EAPs.  The consortium may contract external providers to assist the employee within the working place of work.
The single most important aspect of a good EAP program is confidentiality. The employer is furnished with numerical information of the employee and does not reveal the name of such an employee. In absence of confidentiality workers will rarely seek help in fear of jeopardizing their position and status.
EAPs contribute in several ways in the work place.  An effective EAP program results to decreased incidences of absenteeism. It reduces work place accidents and therefore few workers seeking compensation.  The business is able to achieve greater retention of valuable workers as they feel happy and satisfied.  There are few disputes in the work place that comprise team work.  They also reduce medical cost due to their ability to identify and treat mental health issue or substance abuse.  
To an individual worker EAPs provides   services and referrals   on health issues, drug and alcohol abuse issues, and marital problems. It provides information on financial planning, career counseling and other personal issues such as weight loss and caring for elderly parents.  To the organization EAPs educate the management on how to handle mental health, depression and addiction within the workplace.  They also train on a how to handle violence at work place, safety measures and emergency preparedness.   The management is guided on how to relay sensitive information to the employees such as layoff or death of co-workers.
The perceived cost of funding of employee assistance programs is a concern to many businesses. Though the organization may appreciate the benefit of the program, the thought of another extra expenditure is discouraging.  Apart from the already the mentioned benefits of increased productivity and accost cutting tool, EAPS improves the image of the company among the society.  It is also true that EAPs free up time used in trying to sort out trouble workers. The company is left to concentrate with its core business, that of production or service provision.
Though EAPs will help cope with their personal problems,   but it is always prudent to also ensure the working conditions are conducive. Work related stress will equally affect the healthy, performance and eventually the bottom line of the company. Some of the personal problems are aggravated or even caused by work related stress. Some of the causes may include, Design of work place duties. This may involve long hours, repetitive tasks or assignment of task that does not match an employee’s skills. The management styles where employees have no input in decision making process, lack of communication and family friendly policies. Others may include poor social environment, uncertainties in work place and dangerous or unpleasant work environment (Maseda, 2004).
To aid employees in overcoming work related stress, the business should ensure that the assigned tasks are commensurate with the workers capability. Workers feels motivated to work if duties assigned are stimulating and offer opportunities to showcase their skills. The employees should have clearly defined roles which are clearly communicated (Maseda, 2004).
For a long time EAPs have proved their worth, both to the workers and employers.  They have living examples of workers whose lives they have improved and restored their standing in the workplace. Many organizations have benefited from having productive healthy workers.  As the current generation enters the labor market they will bring along unique challenges associated with the complex modern society. The employers will have to contend with the new challenges along with the same old problems such as mental and substance abuse.  EAPs will have to device and develop new strategies including increased resources and linkages between partners to cope and manage the new and old challenges that affect the workers.
Cost versus benefits of EAPS
It is imperative that a business have factual data showing the actual cost of operating and maintaining EAPs. The cost depends on the extent of the employee’s family cover, location of the EAPS in relation to work place, the number of employees and type of business.  Other factor that determines the cost of the employee’s assistant is the drug test policy of the employer and government requirements.
Table 1 below shows the cost of EAPs in relation to the number of employees in washing DC.

Annual EAP Costs per Number of Company Employees

Number of Employees

Cost Range

Cost Mean

Number of Employees

Cost Range

Cost Mean

More than 5,000 $14-25 $20.29 100-250 $24-60 $32.70
1,000-5,000 $17-39 $20.42 26-100 $29-75 $36.70
500-1,000 $21-36 $25.00 Fewer than 25 $30-100 $50.00
250-500 $23-45 $27.31 Consortium $10-25 $18.00
Estimates are from Corporations Against Drug Abuse, a Washington, DC, consortium and nonprofit organization.

Sourced from: http://www. What Should Employees Know.mht
Though the benefit of EAPs is well known many would wish to have return on investment data to support the facts. Testimonials from those who have had beneficial benefits may be doubtful. Provision of such data is especially important since EAPs are supported by employers (FOH, 2007). Table 2 below shows improvement on   aspects pertinent to productivity in work place.  The data was collected by Federal occupational health over three years from 60,000 EAPs beneficially.

                                                               Table 1
                                        Summary of EAP Client Improvement
Outcome Area Definition of Deficit Level Pre-EAP Post-EAP % Change
Productivity Affected by Mental Health Rating of “extreme” or
“quite a bit of interference” in social & work
31% 8% 74%
Productivity Affected by Physical Health General Health Status Rating of “poor” or “fair” perception of own
health status
16% 11% 31%
Unscheduled Absences or Tardy from Work Unscheduled Absences or Tardy from Work Average number of days in past 30 days 2.37 0.91 62%

Sourced from: Federal occupational,( 2007)
The cost of EAPS is negligible compared to the enormous   improvement to the overall benefits accruing to the business. The fear by many companies who have large work force that the cost of operating EAPs is unfounded as the figure on cost shows.  The nature of today’s work place and the general life style in the modern society leaves many businesses with no option but to care for their workers personal problems.  Though  some occupation such as hospitality industry are more vulnerable to employees with personal problems due to their face to face contact with clients, the personal problem of  employees is every business’s problem.
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