Is Your EAP Sitting on the Shelf Collecting Dust?

Lindsey Garito
4 min readMay 19, 2022


Image by FluxFactory from Getty Images

With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, it is a great time for companies to reflect on how they are supporting employees and their mental health. As employees and their families face difficult life situations, they may not know where to turn or how to get the help and support they really need. Perhaps they need to locate the right resources or information, or maybe they need to talk to someone. There are so many new mental health benefits and options emerging that companies can consider offering to enhance their benefits program. While these take time to determine and implement the right solution, a more immediate response that companies can take to support employees is to dust off their Employee Assistance Program (EAP) benefit.

Yes, remember the EAP? Every company should be offering an EAP as part of their benefits program if they aren’t already. It is a quick and easy benefit to implement that can be done at any time. There’s no enrollment, no system or payroll configuration. It is commonly employer sponsored, making it a great benefit to provide that offers a variety of valuable resources to employees and their families. Most programs offer 24/7 access via phone or online for counseling, 1:1 sessions, resources to help navigate challenging life situations, training courses to develop skills, discounts to lifestyle activities, and more.

Counseling is the most noteworthy feature of an EAP, and usually a certain number of complimentary sessions are included. Counseling can be a great resource to help people navigate through the challenges that they may be facing, though sometimes they do not know where to start, how to find it, or how to engage in it. It may be intimidating, too expensive, unavailable, or all of the above. And then, people ultimately do not wind up getting the help that they really need. So if you have an EAP that includes free counseling, there is no better time than now to be promoting it to employees and making it accessible.

The good news is that most companies are already offering an EAP. The problem lies with utilization. Most companies offer it, yet most employees do not use it.

So why is possibly one the easiest and least expensive benefits that a company can offer also the one that can be most underutilized?

Here are 3 ways to boost engagement in an EAP benefit and ensure you are connecting employees to resources that are readily available and can help support them:

1. Do not leave the EAP sitting in your benefits guide. A common mistake that companies make is implementing an EAP just to check the box that they offer one. The hardest part of offering an EAP is actually fostering use and engagement of it, and helping employees to understand the true value that it offers to them, and typically for free. Be sure to actively communicate it year round and engage employees in different ways about the EAP available to them. Send emails, post flyers in shared spaces, and equip managers with the information or flyers so that they can share it in real time when they have an employee struggling.

2. Create connection with real life events. An employee may not even think about or remember the EAP when they actually need it the most. Build connections with the EAP to life events that employees experience, such as leaves of absence or bereavement. This is where the HR team can really be a support partner to employees during difficult times and ensuring they have all of the resources they need. If an employee is going out on leave or has a death in the family, remind them of the EAP and provide the contact information. Even positive life events, such as having a child, can still be stressful and hard to manage. Having the benefits of the counseling or readily available resources of the EAP can go a long way.

3. Know your EAP utilization rate. With any benefit, it is always important to have a pulse on how many are using it. You have to be able to understand if it is effective and truly supporting your employees and your company. Ask your EAP provider for monthly utilization reports so you can understand and track your EAP utilization. As you increase communication and awareness on the EAP, having a benchmark of where you started will help track progress for engagement efforts and ultimately indicate if more employees are using it. Some utilization reports even provide insight into the areas that are being utilized, such as counseling sessions or financial coaching, so you can see how it is being used and where key support areas are. And if more robust communication and engagement in the EAP does not ultimately increase utilization, you then have data to support considering if a different EAP or program may be a better solution.

While the EAP is not the only answer to solve employee struggles and mental health, it can certainly help. So take some time to dust off the EAP, make it an active conversation, and incorporate it into regular communications and common HR processes to boost engagement, and effectiveness.



Lindsey Garito

HR leader passionate about transforming the people experience and developing new perspectives on total rewards, human capital strategy, and personal growth.