Coworkers having a conversationIn 2011, the average full-time Canadian worker was absent for 9.3 days. While many employees were legitimately unwell, others took days off because they were stressed, depressed, exhausted, had personal errands to run or had a child or an elder care issue to handle. As employees pay the burnout price, employers are paying a hefty financial one. Absences cost the economy approximately $16.6 billion, based on salary cost for the days lost. This figure does not include the cost for replacement workers.

When employees feel overworked, stressed from corporate changes, distracted by personal issues, disengaged due to conflicts, or unfocussed because of physical or mental health concerns, it is simply not good for business. Productivity, innovation and loyalty plummets, and absenteeism, disability leaves, accidents, workplace conflicts and benefit costs soar.

EFAPs improve workforce productivity and reduce absence

Having physically and mentally healthy employees is a definite advantage and sound investment. An essential part of any wellness strategy is an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP), and the main reason why organizational health strategies are now key components of business plans. Yet some organizations remain unconvinced that EFAPs are helpful due to the presumed costly price tag, despite the demonstrated effectiveness of these programs. Fortunately, a new Shepell study refutes this, showing in fact that every one dollar invested in an EFAP translates into an $8.70 return on investment (ROI) – with improved productivity and less employee time spent away from work.

The study also revealed:

  • 63% of employees believed that their work productivity had been negatively affected in the four weeks leading up to accessing EFAP counselling
  • employees seeking help through their EFAP showed a 35.9% increase in work productivity compared to their productivity level prior to seeking help
  • employees using their EFAP recorded less time away from work after accessing EFAP help
  • 46% of employees reaching out to their EFAP services said that they would have lost time from work – more than 20 days – were it not for the support they received through counselling

More than investment: EFAPs return on influence

While EFAPs play a large role in helping employees and their families cope with or resolve personal issues that interfere with their professional or home lives, they also improve employees’ attitudes toward wellness overall. Employers who proactively integrated EFAPs into their workplace culture influenced their employees for the better. Such an integrated approach could include offering employees program information sessions or lunch-and-learns, personal nutritional planning or various resources to help cope with illness or to prevent disease through healthy lifestyle habits. Interestingly, the study showed that employers with integrated EFAPs saw a further increase in their return on investment in excess of $10 for every dollar invested in their EFAP.

Reducing stigma

This positive return on influence also showed a reduction in employees’ perceived stigma associated with seeking help for mental health problems. This is a huge bonus for workplace wellness and overall employee health considering that depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses cost Canadian businesses more than $50 billion a year in lost productivity, benefits costs, disability leaves and absenteeism. EFAPs not only help reduce stigma but allow employees and their family members to access support in confidence, anytime and anywhere.

Employee and Family Assistance Programs are no longer simply a nice perk for employees. They are an essential component for every workplace looking to maintain organizational health, create a positive workplace culture, and optimize employee wellness. The study offers a tangible return on investment for reluctant employers, as well as a clear return on influence for employers looking to create and benefit from a healthy workforce today and into the future.

The full research report, The Return on Investment for Employee and Family Assistance Programs, is available for download here.

To learn more about the value of EFAPs or how to optimize your current program, contact us at 1.800.461.9722 or visit

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