By: Cherise Stewart,

Help – verb

1: to give assistance or support to (someone) to provide (someone) with something that is useful or necessary in achieving an end

You have probably yelled out a four letter expletive after banging your toe against an object and experienced excruciating pain or maybe let a four letter word slip when someone cut you off on the highway.  We are told not to say these colorful words in professional settings or in front of children.    It’s the taboo part of our vernacular that we reserve for those times where our emotions run high.

Asking for help at work can be an equally taboo four letter word.  Whether it’s asking your co-worker for help manipulating statistical data on a spreadsheet, or asking your supervisor for time off due to the fact that you are exhausted because you are a primary caregiver to a loved one at home with a debilitating illness.  Asking for help may be a signal that you are not as knowledgeable; not as strong and not as invested in your job or career.

Employees come to work with a myriad of personal issues such as mental and physical illnesses, childcare or caregiving challenges, as well as financial pressures.  It’s a reality for us at some point in our lives.  We as HR professionals think that we are doing our due diligence in posting EAP brochures around the office and reminding supervisors to make sure they are offering EAP assistance but is it enough?  Will the employee have the courage to ask for help?  Especially if the resources available aren’t so easy to find.

The Washington, D.C.-based Business Group on Health, for example, found that median utilization in 2018 was 5.5 percent of Employee Assistance Programs. Utilization nationwide is usually less than 10%.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) offer various benefits for employees, including Counseling Services, Work-Life Balance Support, Financial Counseling, Legal Advice, Health and Wellness Programs, Substance Abuse Assistance, Stress Management, Conflict Resolution Services, Career Development Resources, and 24/7 Helplines. Overall, EAPs contribute to the well-being and productivity of employees by addressing various personal and professional challenges they may face but remember that posting a flyer or handing out brochures might not be enough for employees struggling to ask for help.  Organizations should consider a multi-prong approach when providing or implementing employee assistance programs.  For example, schedule in person or live virtual sessions to address topics such as burnout and stress management.  Offer sessions during lunch hours so that employee can take advantage of the session.   Reach out to your EAP provider and ask them for advice.  EAPs may offer opportunities to meet with specific groups, teams, or discuss specific topics.  For example, EAPs can be available to meet with staff that may have recently experienced a traumatic event on or off work.

Offer fun activities such as a mobility challenge and look at other ways to address employee pain points such as financial management workshops or links to childcare, aftercare or caregiver resources.    Help does not have to be a taboo four letter word at work.  Providing virtual resources, live events, literature in both group and individual environments can go a long way in increasing employee participation and overcoming the stigma in seeking help.


About the Author

Cherise V. Stewart, MS, SPHR is the Vice President of Human Resources at Valley Youth House, a non-profit organization providing valuable services to children and youth.   She holds her Master’s in Human Resource Development from Villanova University and is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources with over 15 years of experience working in various industries and roles.  Cherise also serves as an executive team member of the IBB investment group dedicated to the education of investing and economic empowerment in the African American community.  She is an active member of Toastmasters, and is an avid traveler having visited 27 states, 23 countries, and 5 continents thus far. Cherise is also a member of Philly SHRM’s Thought Leadership Team.

Editor: Dennis Paris

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