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Guidance on Employee Wellness Programs

Wednesday, May 24, 2023
Employee Services Logo
Veronica E. Hinton, Associate Director, Employee Services
Guidance on Employee Wellness Programs

As stated in the President’s Management Agenda, Agencies will promote awareness of employee well-being and support initiatives that extend beyond the workplace.”   In response, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) embarked on an initiative to highlight and revitalize the role of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) to encourage and support maximum investment in employee wellness and improve the overall efficacy of support programs to meet the rapidly evolving needs of the federal workforce.  OPM’s goal is to support federal agencies in utilizing available tools and resources so that employee wellness is efficiently fostered, uplifted, and consistently prioritized across government. 

Over the last year, OPM has sought to identify a standardized approach to employee wellness programs to promote equitability across the Federal enterprise by thoroughly assessing employee assistance programs and facilitating interagency communication. OPM hosted targeted focus groups with experts in health sciences, mental health, substance abuse, and psychology, as well as agency Work-Life partners. OPM also engaged multiple premiere EAP vendors in efforts to understand the relationship EAP contractors have with federal agencies, as well as how agencies communicate the needs of their employees to EAP vendors.  Through these efforts, OPM has identified promising practices, disparities among agency EAP programs, and areas of improvement that form the basis for this guidance. 

The guidance we are issuing today promotes consistent, evidence-based approaches to EAP programming, expands the focus of EAPs to incorporate a more comprehensive employee wellness approach, and promotes equitable access to these support services across federal agencies.  It recognizes the EAP as a comprehensive and robust space for all employee wellness needs which include financial literacy, legal services, mental health counseling, dependent care, life-stage planning and more.  This guidance includes recommendations and highlights best practices for supporting comprehensive wellness programming, such as:

  • Services and resources
  • Physical location and aesthetic environment of EAP offices within agencies
  • Equality and inclusion
  • Promotion and marketing
  • Employee Feedback
  • Key performance Indicators 

OPM also encourages agencies to remind managers, supervisors, and employees about the importance of cultivating healthy wellness habits, which include caring for one’s mental health on a proactive rather than reactive basis.  Leaders should be encouraged to initiate regular conversations surrounding mental well-being in efforts to normalize and destigmatize mental health treatment and to promote a healthier workforce.  Leaders should also keep in mind that EAP’s should be promoted not only in the wake of tragedies or negative events, but also when needed to address other mental health needs since accessing mental health treatment (e.g., by participating in mental health counseling) and mental health-related resources promotes employees’ mental well-being.  In some instances, EAP counseling services may be utilized in conjunction with FEHB health plan benefits to identify covered local care for federal employees. 

As OPM continues to work on additional deliverables, we encourage agencies to periodically assess their programs’ alignment with employee needs and identify any additional opportunities for interagency and intra-agency collaboration to support employee wellness. 

OPM’s Work-Life staff is available to assist with any additional questions or inquiries. If you have any questions, please contact

cc:  Chief Human Capital Officers, Deputy Chief Human Capital Officers 

Attachment:  Employee Wellness Programs Guidance (see 508-conformant PDF below)