In a world of uncertainty, where nothing about home or work life is simple, EAPs are a solid foundation for wellbeing resilience. That’s been proven by new analysis of the biggest ever data set on EAP usage, impact and financial returns in the UK (Financial Return on EAPs 2020: How Does Your Organisation Compare?).

For every £1 spent on an EAP in the UK, employers see an average return on investment (ROI) of £7.27 – based on 2,000 calculations made via the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA UK) ROI calculator since the beginning of 2019, representing anonymised information from four million employees.

A Deloitte report in 2020 proposed that for every £1 spent on supporting their people’s mental health in general, employers, on average, get £5.00 back on their investment as a result of reduced presenteeism, absenteeism and staff turnover. The calculator results suggest that EAPs specifically may be playing a more significant role in delivering ROI – getting a return from professional counselling services in particular.  

Figures also demonstrate a relatively high level of consistency of ROI around the £7.27 level: whatever size company, sector, geographic location or service used, an EAP is delivering substantial financial returns. Usage is also consistent – around 10.4% of a workforce – demonstrating how the majority of organisations are making broader use of EAPs as a wellness service, for early intervention and prevention.

But the variations that do exist in ROI between employers are an important lessons. They show how there are opportunities for many to do better, to get more from their EAP. The calculator data essentially shows that it’s where employers are most engaged with their EAP in terms of communications and ensuring employees are engaged and using services.

The Agriculture sector – where ROI is much lower, at £4.12 – is an example of the impact of a dispersed workforce: where staff are less likely to be based centrally in office environment and without same level of access to HR, employer communications and manager presence. Lower usage, in this situation, appears to be related directly to lower ROI. By contrast, in the Transport/utilities sector results, the largest usage figure (11.9%) leads to the best ROI (£8.61).

The lower ROI for organisations operating across a national network of sites (£6.61) is another indication of the impact of dispersed teams. Without a centrally-based HQ, employees appear to be less engaged with EAP services and the breadth of their potential for providing support; the presence of HR and internal communications may be less overt. 

There is also a message here for the post-Covid-19 environment and the anticipated increase in home working and flexible arrangements: the importance of regular communications on EAPs; making full use of the available support from EAP providers in raising awareness; and, ensuring that the role and range of EAP services is flagged at every key point in an employee’s career: when they move between roles, from full-time to part-time, or change to flexible working.

The calculator, developed for EAPA by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), is an open source tool for benchmarking. Free to use, it can provide an instant, snapshot insight into the ROI from an EAP; or, with more detailed information on absence and productivity, the kind of data that can be used for regular management reports on the returns from investment in employee wellbeing and resilience. The calculator means HR can check how their EAP is working. They can benchmark against competitors in the sector, regionally and employers of the same size. It can also be used to look at the potential impact of trying different models of services, changing the level of investment or pushing promotional activity to up the levels of usage, as the basis for HR conversations with Directors of Finance.

Wellbeing resilience, more than ever, is a pillar of organisational performance. So an EAP isn’t just another benefit but an essential that shouldn’t just be switched on and left to run. There needs to be close attention to the mechanics and a sharing of data in order to ensure UK employers and EAP providers together can deliver the services that people want and need, keeping them motivated and engaged through the worst of times.

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