Study Links EAP & Work Performance
By Melissa Tamburo, PhD; and Jeffrey Mintzer, MSW
The largest provider of occupational health services in the federal government has validated positive EAP results using the Workplace Outcome Suite (WOS). The Federal Occupational Health (FOH), a component of the Program Support Center, serves more than 360 federal agencies and reaches approximately 1.8 million federal employees.
FOH has been providing EAP services since 1980 using a “hybrid” model consisting of both internal staff and a large vendor/supplier. The FOH is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recognized expert in employee health programs. Over 10 years ago, FOH integrated EAP and work/life services, with many of the federal agencies finding these resources valuable for their employees.
FOH has a rich history of advancing knowledge in the EAP field. FOH was an early supporter of measuring program outcomes. In fact, Selvick, Stephenson, Plaza, and Sugden (2004) published one of the few studies that demonstrated statistically significant outcomes from FOH’s EAP. The researchers’ findings showed significant improvement from pre- to post-EAP intervention on measures of productivity, work and social relationships, perceived health status, attendance and tardiness, and global assessment of functioning.
Key WOS Findings
In an effort to better understand the current impact of our services, FOH used an industry gold-standard tool, the Workplace Outcome Suite (WOS). This tool is a five-item measure that is psychometrically tested and easy to administer telephonically during the intake process. It consists of five scales that measure absenteeism, presenteeism, work engagement, life satisfaction, and workplace distress.
In October 2015, FOH began collecting data on specific outcomes for clients who accessed the EAP. A random sample of clients were asked to answer the brief questionnaire; three months later, these respondents were contacted for follow-up and asked the same questions. The sample size (based on setting a standard error of three percentage points to achieve a 97% confidence level) consisted of 4,800 respondents who completed both the pre- and post-tests.
A paired-sample t-test was used to examine changes in average scale scores from before respondents used EAP to after services were rendered. All five constructs used in the WOS were found to be statistically significant, and demonstrated the positive influence of using the EAP. Specifically:
* 69.2 percent reduction in absenteeism
* 22.8 percent reduction in work presenteeism
* 2.8 percent improvement in work engagement
* 24.2 percent improvement in life satisfaction
* 10.0 percent reduction in workplace distress
The five measures make a compelling case for the importance of FOH’s EAP services and their influence on employee performance. The remarkable nearly 70-percent reduction in absenteeism alone highlights the value of offering support to employees who are challenged with personal concerns. Presenteeism is a less obvious variable, and focuses on “functional impairment,” or the ability to attend to work tasks while physically at the job. Research has shown that behavioral health concerns (e.g., depression, anxiety, and stress) are the primary driver of lost productivity, with absenteeism following closely behind (Sullivan, 2017). A reduction of nearly 23 percent in presenteeism demonstrates that FOH’s EAP is successfully working with clients to address their concerns, allowing them to focus more effectively on the job.
Comparatively, the nearly three-percent improvement in work engagement is a seemingly small impact. However, these findings are consistent with other studies that use the WOS and show that the EAP does have a demonstrable impact on how invested in or passionate EAP users are about their jobs.
The WOS uncovered more than a 24-percent improvement in life satisfaction among EAP users. Life satisfaction is a global measure that addresses the impact of work and life issues on one’s general, affective sense of well-being. This measure captures a perceived improvement in one’s quality of life or sense of well-being (Sharar, Pompe, and Lennox, 2012), which bode well for increased job satisfaction and employee retention. Finally, findings show a 10-percent reduction in workplace distress.
Return on investment analysis is forthcoming, and is expected to demonstrate significant value to the federal government and the agencies that use FOH’s EAP. We recently published an invitation to federal customers to review the relationship between key performance indicators and robust EAP usage, highlighting WOS data gleaned from our marketing campaign.
“Our experience is that this type of marketing effort often results in spurring customers to contact their FOH account executives, either in response to the specific email campaign, or in response to the email campaign reminding the customer of something they need or want from FOH,” states Veronica Morrow, Associate Director, Employee Assistance and Work/Life Programs with FOH.
In conclusion, FOH’s EAP demonstrates a very strong correlation between the EAP intervention and improvement to an employee’s work performance in a variety of dimensions. All constructs show statistically significant change over time, and the findings demonstrate that EAP services produce a positive impact that is clearly better than not having an EAP or one that is not robust. These findings show promise as we look to validate the positive effects the FOH’s EAP has on people’s lives.
In addition to the services available for individual employees, FOH’s EAP is a broad-brush program that includes services for supervisors and workplace leaders. Services include expert guidance to agency leadership in managing the organizational impact of change, building a resilient workforce, unlimited consultations with supervisors/managers on performance management concerns, and consultation and onsite response to critical incidents.
FOH offers EAP and work/life services as part of its integrated resources. Additional services include organizational development and leadership; and psychological testing and evaluation to further improve the comprehensive and supportive resources for an agency’s employees.
At the time of this writing, Melissa Tamburo, PhD, LCSW-C, was the Acting Director, EAP and Work/Life Programs with the FOH. Jeffrey Mintzer, MSW, is the Deputy Director, Behavioral Health Services, with the FOH. He can be contacted at Jeffrey.Mintzer@foh.hhs.gov.
Amaral, T. (1999). Benchmarks and performance measures for employee assistance programs. The Employee Assistance Handbook, 161-178.
Selvik, Stephenson, Plaza, & Sugden, B. (2004). EAP impact on work, relationship, and health outcomes. Journal of Employee Assistance, 34(2), 18-22.
Sharar, Pompe, & Lennox, R. (2012). Evaluating the workplace effects of EAP counseling. Journal of Health & Productivity, 6(2), 5-14.
Sullivan, S. (January 17, 2017). Employee assistance practice-based research network series. The Future of Workplace Behavioral Health Research.
CGP, EAPA Complete Important Report on WOS
Chestnut Global Partners (CGP) and the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) recently completed an important annual report on the use of EAP.
The report focuses on the use of CGP’s Workplace Outcome Suite (WOS) in assessing over 16,000 users both before and after EAP use. The report demonstrates how EAP intervention improves the following workplace constructs: absenteeism, presenteeism, work engagement, workplace distress, and life satisfaction.
This year’s report contains pooled results across all WOS users but also adds new significant data from last year, that being: Workplace outcome data across four industries, various presenting concerns, sources of referral, and comparison of internal versus external EAP models.
The WOS is now in use by hundreds of EAP organizations and stands apart from other outcome measures as it is psychometrically tested, validated, workplace-focused, easy to administer, and available free of charge with a licensing agreement.
“EAP providers are currently not paid in proportion to their effectiveness, and this is unlikely to change unless the profession embraces improved outcome measurement,” said David Sharar, Chief Clinical Officer with CGP’s Commercial Science Division.
Highlights of the free report were scheduled for discussion by Dr. Sharar and Greg DeLapp, EAPA CEO, in the breakout session, “Workplace Impact of EAP by Industry and Model” at EAPA’s World EAP Conference, October 3-6, 2017 in Los Angeles.