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The Effect of Employee Assistance Services on Reductions in Employee Absenteeism

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Personal and work-related stressors experienced by employees can result in substantial costs to employers in the form of employee absenteeism. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) provide an important vehicle to assist employees with behavioral health issues, personal concerns, and work-related problems that impact employee absenteeism. This study tested the impact of EAPs on reducing employee absenteeism utilizing a well-matched control group and human resource timecard data. The study recruited employees from 20 areas of state government and used a prospective, quasi-experimental design with propensity score matching. EAP (n = 145) users were matched to non-EAP (n = 145) users on baseline demographic, psychosocial, and work-related characteristics that differentiate the groups. Hours of sick time recorded were provided by human resource offices. Differences in sick leave usage were tested using mixed model repeated measures. A steeper decline in sick leave usage for EAP than non-EAP employees was found, with estimates of 4.8 to 6.5% fewer hours lost per month to illness. Further analysis found that EAP services were most effective in helping clients move from moderate to low levels of sick leave rather than in reducing sick leave for those experiencing chronic absenteeism. Research on the effectiveness of EAPs rarely utilizes well-matched control groups and frequently relies on self-reported outcomes. Using an objective measure of work time lost, this study provides empirical evidence that users of EAP services tend to reduce their absenteeism at a faster pace than non-EAP users experiencing similar challenges to maintaining productivity.
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ORIGINAL PAPER
The Effect of Employee Assistance Services on Reductions
in Employee Absenteeism
Ana P. Nunes
1
&Melissa K. Richmond
1
&Fred C. Pampel
2
&Randi C. Wood
3
Published online: 4 October 2017
#Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017
Abstract Personal and work-related stressors experienced by
employees can result in substantial costs to employers in the
form of employee absenteeism. Employee Assistance
Programs (EAPs) provide an important vehicle to assist em-
ployees with behavioral health issues, personal concerns, and
work-related problems that impact employee absenteeism.
This study tested the impact of EAPs on reducing employee
absenteeism utilizing a well-matched control group and hu-
man resource timecard data. The study recruited employees
from 20 areas of state government and used a prospective,
quasi-experimental design with propensity score matching.
EAP (n= 145) users were matched to non-EAP (n=145)
users on baseline demographic, psychosocial, and work-
related characteristics that differentiate the groups. Hours of
sick time recorded were provided by human resource offices.
Differences in sick leave usage were tested using mixed model
repeated measures. A steeper decline in sick leave usage for
EAP than non-EAP employees was found, with estimates of
4.8 to 6.5% fewer hours lost per month to illness. Further
analysis found that EAP services were most effective in help-
ing clients move from moderate to low levels of sick leave
rather than in reducing sick leave for those experiencing
chronic absenteeism. Research on the effectiveness of EAPs
rarely utilizes well-matched control groups and frequently
relies on self-reported outcomes. Using an objective measure
of work time lost, this study provides empirical evidence that
users of EAP services tend to reduce their absenteeism at a
faster pace than non-EAP users experiencing similar chal-
lenges to maintaining productivity.
Keywords Employee assistance programs .Absenteeism .
Stress .Well- b eing .Work life issues
Depression, anxiety, substance use, chronic illness, and other
psychological stressors, both personal and professional, result
in a substantial cost to employers in the form of employee ab-
senteeism (McTernan, Dollard, & LaMontagne, 2013; Goetzel,
Ozminkowski, Sederer, & Mark, 2002; Langlieb & Kahn, 2005;
Lerner & Henke, 2008). When unplanned absences occur, em-
ployers incur direct (e.g., replacement worker compensation,
overtime costs) and indirect (e.g., lost productive time of co-
workers and supervisors) costs. In the USA, about 75% of em-
ployers surveyed indicated that employee absenteeism had a
moderate or large impact on productivity and revenue
(SHRM/Kronos, 2013). For example, replacement workers are
estimated to be 36.6% less productive when filling in for em-
ployees with unplanned absences (SHRM/Kronos, 2013).
Estimated annual costs related to lost productivity due to depres-
sion alone are calculated to be $84 billion (Witters & Liu, 2013).
Unplanned absences can result from a variety of reasons
including psychosocial, work factors and stressors, personal
illness, family issues, and mental health concerns
(Niedhammer, Chastang, Taieb, Bermeylen, & Parent-Thirion,
2012; Kocakulah, Kelley, Mitchell, & Ruggieri, 2011).
Depression, anxiety, and stress are among the top contributors
to sickness absences (Cooper & Dewe, 2008) and emotional
problems and psychological stress predict absenteeism after
controlling for other health problems, personal characteristics,
*Ana P. Nunes
anunes@omni.org
1
OMNI Institute, 899 Logan Street, Suite 600, Denver, CO 80203,
USA
2
Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado Boulder,
Denver, CO, USA
3
The State of Colorado, Department of Personnel and Administration,
Denver, CO, USA
J Bus Psychol (2018) 33:699709
DOI 10.1007/s10869-017-9518-5
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... Five of the included studies (in 14 reports) [23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35][36] were RCTs (two cluster-RCTs), while the other two studies (in five reports) [37][38][39][40][41] used quasi-experimental controlled study design. Three studies [26,30,34] were carried out in Australia, two studies (11 reports) [23,25,[27][28][29][31][32][33][39][40][41] in the United States and one study each in Sweden (three reports) [24,35,36] and Denmark (two reports) [37,38]. ...
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... Alternatively, other studies included only working parents, wherein all male participants had a child aged 16 years or younger living at home [26,30,34]. The number of randomized participants across the included studies ranged from 45 to 3159 employees, with enrollment periods spanning between 2005 (or Intervention types varied across the studies and included reduced weekly working hours [24,35,36]; employee self-rostering (flexibility) [37,38]; workplace structural, social and cultural change process for managing work-family interface [23,25,[27][28][29][31][32][33]; workplace parenting and work-family intervention [26,30,34] and employee assistance programs providing individualized counseling for identifying coping strategies for personal and professional stressors [39][40][41]. The included studies targeted health and social wellbeing-related outcomes, such as sleep quality, worry, stress, mental distress and somatic symptoms, problem behavior, work-life conflicts, work-family conflict, parental satisfaction, and dysfunctional parenting; and work-related outcomes, such as sick time taken, absenteeism, presenteeism and self-efficacy. ...
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