Why EAPs don’t work: The future of employee wellbeing
09 Dec 2022

Why EAPs don’t work: The future of employee wellbeing

Written by: Frankie Health

Employee assistance programs, also known as EAPs, seek to support companies by offering employees short-term counseling and other support services. In recent decades, EAPs have become a given in medium to large companies. In fact, over 97% of large, private U.S. employers now offer EAPs to their team members.

But here’s the elephant in the room: EAPs are wildly underused despite positive intentions. Only about 6.9% of employees in the U.S. and around 5% of UK employees use employee assistance programs. In cases that involve counseling sessions, that percentage dwindles down to a mere 3.6%. Meanwhile, a staggering 76% of employees report experiencing at least one mental health symptom within the past year.

eaps are outdated - why eaps don't work

So – why are EAPs so underused? How are EAPs failing to meet the needs of today’s teams? And most importantly, what better options are out there?

Frankie Health is an employee mental health platform that treats workers’ well-being as a valuable ongoing investment – not just a box to tick. Let’s take a look at some of the most common problems with EAPs and learn why Frankie increases employee engagement 22 times more than employee assistance programs.


Here’s what you need to know about EAPs – including what they are and how they work.

What does EAP stand for?

EAP stands for “employee assistance program.” Employee assistance programs were first developed in the 1940s when companies began offering counselling and intervention services to employees struggling with drug and alcohol use. Now, EAPs provide support for a wide range of personal issues and needs.

What is an EAP?

Once an employee assistance program is paid for by a company, it provides free support services to help employees address issues that may be affecting them at work. EAPs try to provide support across a wide variety of areas, such as:

  • Mental health challenges, including stress, anxiety and grief
  • Addictions, including drugs, alcohol or gambling
  • Financial, occupational or legal problems
  • Family, parenting, adopting or caregiving difficulties
  • Abuse and violence

How does an EAP work?

EAPs are typically provided as part of a company’s overall health insurance plan. Others are delivered by a third-party service provider or sponsored by management.

Usually, employees voluntarily choose to participate in an EAP by referring themselves to services. In rare cases, the human resources department may request or require that an employee participates in a particular service offered.

Why are EAPs underused in most companies?

EAPs that don't deliver often remain in place far beyond their expiration date. On the surface, employee assistance programs seem like an excellent way to offer mental health support in the workplace. So, why are they still not able to support our employees?

Let's take a look at some of the most common reasons why EAPs don't work for contemporary workplaces.

Why EAPs often fail

The truth is conventional EAPs often only scratch the surface of offering helpful, personalised resources. Here are a few of the reasons that most employees are opting out of EAP services:

1. Lack of awareness:

Many employees simply don't know that their company offers an EAP. When mental well-being support is wrapped up in an overarching insurance plan, it can be unclear what immediate help is available. The lack of awareness also prevents a company culture where mental health is talked about openly.

2. Inefficiency:

When a person needs support, they don't want to call a hotline or sift through layers of bureaucracy and paperwork to get help. Even the employees who do make the necessary phone call(s) may be dismissed by the phone center agent if their issue is too complex for EAP's standard six sessions of therapy.

3. Cookie-cutter care:

Most EAPs offer a standardized model of care with nonspecific services. Employees who need counseling are often referred to a therapist at random, regardless of their need for ongoing, specialized help in a particular field of care. This one-size-fits-all approach can alienate workers who would otherwise welcome help. Worst of all, the lack of personalisation leaves behind the people who need the most support.

4. Outdated:

The overarching framework of an EAP hasn't hugely evolved since it first began in the 1940s. Most services are accessed via a phone call rather than the digital tools most of today's workers are more comfortable with. This old-school approach leads some employees to avoid using their EAP at all.

5. Lack of anonymity:

Some workers fear that using EAP services will result in stigma or judgment from supervisors. In many cases, they worry that their medical information won't be kept confidential – or even that they will experience negative consequences as a result of participating in an EAP.

6. Limited employee feedback:

Because there's such a wide range of EAP types and delivery methods, there's no clear way to measure how effective they are or gather employee feedback. There's also no intelligent learning, where the programme starts to personalise support based on where the employee is on their mental health journey.

On top of that, therapists don't like to work with EAPs because of their payment system and the limited hours per client.

therapists don't like to work with EAPs because of their limited hours per client.

How Frankie Health solves common EAP problems

Ready to move beyond outdated EAP models? Frankie’s forward-thinking approach to employee mental health solves many of the most common EAP problems:


Frankie offers a holistic, turnkey solution to employee mental health, which allows your team members to access the support they need in just a few clicks. Instead of an outdated phone system, members will use streamlined digital resources that fully integrate into your company’s existing day-to-day tools.

Targeted care:

Frankie understands that each employee’s mental health journey is unique – and they need mental health care that truly meets them where they are. From quick exercises to more substantial treatment, each of Frankie’s recommendations is tailor-made for the individual.


Employees who are concerned about sharing their private information can enjoy greater peace of mind on Frankie’s confidential platform. Frankie’s completely anonymous assessments and other secure mental health tools will give them the privacy they deserve.


Frankie allows employees to provide ongoing anonymous feedback about their work environment, so you’ll know exactly when to step in. Plus, the numbers don’t lie: 96% of Frankie users say they’re happy with their therapist, and 100% of them would recommend Frankie to family and friends.

Frankie Health vs EAP

Why should companies offer mental health support?

Here are just a few of the reasons workplaces should be actively supporting their employees’ mental health:

1. The bad news: Drug abuse costs employers an estimated $81 billion each year.

The good news is that an employee who enters recovery will miss nearly 14 fewer days of work and save you over $8,500 annually.

2. The bad news: 85% of employees say that workplace stress negatively affects their overall mental health.

The good news is that companies can measure the ROI of employee mental health, and they get, on average, $4 for every dollar they invest in it.

> You may be interested in our related article "How to measure the ROI of employee mental health"

3. The bad news: A 2021 study found that 79% of UK employees reported lower productivity at work in the year after a divorce, and 57% didn’t think their employers offered them enough help.

The good news is that bout 42% of those employees said that their performance would have benefited from additional mental health support at work.

Empower your employees through our mental health platform

Provide your team with the mental health support they need: access to licensed therapists and coaches, mood check-ins, personalised wellness content, and more.

Frankie: the future of mental health in the workplace

EAPs often fall short of delivering what they promise. Frankie Health offers a comprehensive suite of employee mental health solutions with proven results.

Real-time, data-driven insights about your team will help you identify the signs of excessive anxiety or early burnout and know when to take action. Employees who need additional support can handpick their provider from a selection of over 1,000 licensed therapists working in 35 languages and across over 100 specialties in 80+ countries. Frankie’s therapists have over ten years of experience on average, so you can feel confident that your team members are getting the clinically validated treatment they deserve.

The future of mental health in the workplace is here. With Frankie’s intelligent digital mental health tools at your fingertips, you can sidestep the most common EAP problems and move confidently into a new era of workplace wellness.