Rocky Mountain Research

EAP, Work/Life & Wellness Consulting Services

Longitudinal Lens on The Evolution of EAP, Work-Life and Wellness Benefit Programs


Roland Zullo, Ph.D,          Patricia A. Herlihy, Ph.D, R.N,          Max Heirich, Ph.D



How have employee assistance (EAP), work-life and wellness programs changed in the businesses that were recognized as "family friendly" 15 years earlier? Harsh economic conditions have threatened discretionary benefits that positively affect talent recruitment, retention, employee productivity and corporate image over this very same time period (Smyth et al. 2009). Thus, the authors investigated these changes in the three progressive benefits programs in light of the economic and sociological changes that had occurred in the interim. EAP's provide counseling for substance abuse and other mental health issues; work-life encompasses programs that help employees balance the demands of family and work; while wellness programs aim at improving employees' overall physical health with the goal of decreasing health-care costs. The label "family-friendly" is used throughout the paper for benefits plans involving some mix of EAP, work-life and wellness offerings.

Prior literature has sought to identify the motives for adopting family-friendly policies (Davs and Kalleberg, 2006); Bond et al. 2002; Glass and Fujimoto 1995). A logical extension to this scholarship is to ask how such programs, once adopted are shaped by factors both within and external to the organization. Changing conditions, especially fiscal stress, may lead to the adulteration or elimination of benefits (Kelly et al. 2008). Firms adopt family-friendly policies when attracting or retaining committed staff (Csiernik 2005); Davis and Kalleberg; Osterman 1995). Thus, it follows that these benefits may be reduced or terminated as firms downsize. A plausible, alternative scenario is that the non-economic factors supporting family-friendly benefits protect these programs when companies hit hard times.

The study's findings are based on ethnographic data collected via telephone interviews from 28 companies designated to compare recent practices and policies of EAP, work-life and wellness programs with the responses form a 1993 Boston University study that surveyed firms ranked most family-friendly by Working Mother magazine. The authors inquired about the status of the benefits, changes in the scope and structure of the benefits, internal and external factors influencing these changes, and an explanation of the strategic choices made by management in response to those factors.




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