Rethinking Employee Support: The Inadequacy of EAPs

November 09, 20232 min read

In today's corporate landscape, HR professionals and business leaders are constantly seeking ways to provide support to their employees, especially when it comes to those experiencing grief. When I inquire about the strategies in place, the most common response I hear is the referral to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for sessions with a therapist.

However, there is a fundamental problem with this approach.

EAPs are primarily designed to address specific, short-term issues that can typically be resolved within a limited number of sessions, usually around five. Grief, on the other hand, is neither specific nor short term. The EAP, even as a therapeutic option, falls short of being a comprehensive solution.

There's a critical aspect of support that the EAP cannot touch upon, and it's an element missing in most workplaces: in-house support. When individuals facing grief find themselves at work, they need support, understanding, and compassion.

When we speak of grievers in the workplace, our minds often turn to those who have recently lost a loved one—a significant proportion of our workforce, roughly 1 in 8 employees. Grief affects us, and we are not ourselves. Our productivity temporarily declines. We become easily distracted, confused, and miss deadlines. Just getting to work becomes an uphill battle. The EAP fails to address any of these challenges, but a compassionate workplace culture can.

One of the aspects of my work that I enjoy most is helping companies establish a comprehensive support structure for grievers at work—a menu of options, so to speak, that grievers can access continuously to receive the specific support they require over time. Each griever is unique, and companies often have a diverse range of roles, each with distinct challenges. We need a variety of support options.

Establishing this structure not only fosters equity and consistency throughout the organization but also eradicates any semblance of favoritism in employee treatment. There's no need for supervisors to cobble together ad hoc solutions, and grievers no longer have to fight for the support they need. Instead, there's a simple tool that everyone is aware of and can readily tap into when necessary.

This approach is cost-effective and sends a powerful message of genuine care for your employees and their humanity. It's time for our support systems to evolve in tandem with our emotional needs. The traditional support mechanisms no longer align with the robust and empathetic care most organizations aspire to provide.

I invite you to join me at an upcoming free Masterclass to delve deeper into the strategies that can be implemented within the workplace to support your employees more effectively. You can find the link to the upcoming dates in the comments, with sessions scheduled for November 9th and 18th, from 9:30-10:30 am PST. Feel free to register via the provided link or message me for a complimentary consultation. Let's work together to create workplaces that truly value the emotional well-being of our teams.

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Through her insightful teachings and thoughtfully designed programs, Suzanne offers a path guided by emotional intelligence and real life experience to address the full spectrum of the complex emotions and consequences of grief while expanding the capacity to engage fully with life post loss. Her heartfelt approach also honours the depth of loss through the invaluable practice of cherishing and expressing love for what has been lost and experienced.

Bonnie Lynn

Business Owner/Consultant


In a recent peer meeting, I shared the statistics you provided regarding the number of co-workers that are dealing with grief at any given time. We committed to not only acknowledging the grief but also to providing sustained support.

Kay McBreairty

Program Manager