Companies Benefit from Employee Assistance Programs
Dr. Roy DeHart, THE JOURNAL RECORD
In times of drastic budget cuts, corporate programs that help employees deal with personal problems often are among the first to go.
With issues such as violence in the workplace so prevalent, however, such programs are needed now more than ever, according to an occupational medicine expert at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Employees today stand a greater chance of being murdered at work than they do of dying from falls, electrocutions or being struck by a falling object, said Dr. Roy DeHart. Many work-related homicides are the result of violence by disgruntled employees or clients, but domestic violence issues also play a role.
"The domestic violence that occurs in the home is clearly spilling over into the workplace," DeHart said. "For example, a husband being served divorce papers by his spouse may react violently to that, go to her workplace and attack her.
"Co-workers may become injured in the turmoil. Someone may try to defend the wife, simply because it's the right thing to do, and that individual may get shot or stabbed or hurt. The idea that you can close off your life for the eight or nine hours you're at work is not realistic, and I think most employers recognize that."
A study released by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1994 indicates that, as a result of workplace violence, more than half a million employees miss 1.8 million days of work annually, resulting in more than $55 million in lost wages. That doesn't include days covered by sick or annual leave.
Employee assistance programs, which direct people to counseling or support services, could reduce these statistics, DeHart said.
"I think it's a mistake in most industries to assume that the majority of the benefit of these programs is to the employee," he noted. "Certainly, the employee benefits. But in the long run, the company benefits.
"Employees have improved morale, decreased sick leave and medical service use. …