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The Essential Guide to Employee Assistance Programmes

29 June 2020 8 min read

employee assistance programmes

An employee assistance programme will help you secure long-term success through strategic investment in your single most important asset – your people.

We all feel stressed and anxious sometimes. It’s perfectly natural. But these are particularly trying times. Many people are feeling more stressed than ever. And unless we do something to address this, we may be facing a mental health crisis.

As an employer, you’re in a perfect position to give your employees the strength and support they need. An employee assistance programme can help them feel less overwhelmed while signposting them to relevant resources. Our studies show that 53% of UK companies do not have adequate resources to support their staff’s mental health. But if you support your employees’ mental health, you can build trust, confidence, and vision. You can empower your people to be the best versions of themselves, leading to reduced staff turnover and a significant boost to loyalty, productivity, and resilience.

What is an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)?

An employee assistance programme helps your business assess the state of your employees’ health and wellbeing. They offer support to any employees looking for help with personal problems – either at work or at home. Ultimately, EAPs builds trust between teams and individuals, and between employees and management.

Examples of support an Employee Assistance Programme can offer employees include:

So an employee assistance programme is essentially a scheme to help employees deal with personal problems in a way that’s constructive, healthy, and empowering. If any member of your team has something on their mind – whether it’s a problem at home or at work – an employee assistance programme will help them access the help and support they need. This could be through short-term counselling, or with a referral to more professional support for more serious issues.

Many things can adversely affect your mental health, and you can tailor your employee assistance programme to support your employees through any crisis, big or small. Beyond work conflicts and burnout, think of all the common sources of stress: Financial worries; grief and other family crises; drug and alcohol issues; gambling and other addictions, and legal troubles. With an employee assistance programme, you can help your employees handle whatever life throws at them.

At the same time, through the employee assistance programme, your team can access a wider suite of health and wellbeing support, with perks and incentives that’ll truly make them feel like their work’s worthwhile.

Why You Need an Employee Assistance Programme

For UK companies, mental health is a ticking time bomb.

We recently ran a webinar with Dr Lia Ali from Doctor Care Anywhere. She revealed that 1 in 4 people in the UK suffers from some form of mental health condition. According to CIPD stats, 60% of organisations have reported an increase in common mental health conditions over the past few years. Women in full-time employment are twice as likely to have common mental health problems as full-time employed men, yet only 14% of workers feel comfortable talking about mental health.

Personnel Today revealed that poor Mental health costs the UK economy £99bn each year. So mental health is a huge problem, and unless we do something, it’s only going to get worse. And yet, our studies show that only half of UK companies are equipped to support their employees’ mental health.

These are all shocking stats. You can learn more about them, and what it means for your company, by listening to our mental health podcast with Dr Lia Ali here.

If you want to prevent poor mental health from scuppering your business, you need to give your employees the support they need. An employee assistance programme is a proven strategy that’ll help you do just that. It’ll send a strong message to your employees: That you’re here for them, that their problems are not insignificant, and that you’ll do all you can to support them.

How to Set up an Employee Assistance Programme

An employee assistance programme is multi-layered, with different levels of support to suit every individual and every problem.

A counselling service should be at the core of your employee assistance programme. You can either provide this in-house, or you can get an external supplier. Think of the counsellor as an accessible first port-of-call for all of your employees. They’re there to listen and advise with complete confidentiality.

They might be able to address the issue there and then – sometimes a friendly chat is all it takes for someone to feel less alone. But if someone’s facing something more serious, the counsellor will be able to signpost them to relevant resources and organisations who can help.

But when it comes to mental health issues in the workplace, prevention is always better than a cure. Giving your employees free access to counselling services will be a huge help, but it’s something they’ll only use when they feel like they have to. And by this point, their problems may already have begun to have a negative impact on their work.

As part of an employee assistance programme, you’ll also need a way of assessing and monitoring your team’s health and wellbeing on an ongoing basis. This way, you might be able to identify potential issues long in advance, so you can act long before they become truly problematic.

3 Ways to Assess and Monitor our Team’s Health and Wellbeing

1. Mental Health First Aid Training

All workplaces have appointed first aiders. So why not get an appointed mental health first aider, too? Or better yet, a whole team of them? With specialist training, you can better understand many of the most common mental health conditions, and learn to spot the early signs that someone might be suffering. Then it’s just a case of taking proportionate action, whether that’s a friendly chat, a session with a counsellor, or a professional intervention.

2. Group and Team Counselling

Get external and professional help for your whole team. A group session could help remove the stigma that still surrounds mental health. So people will be less likely to suffer in silence, and more likely to look out for each other and act in the face of problems. Group and team counselling sessions can also help you to identify many common sources of workplace stress, including workplace bullying and strained relationships. Addressing these will make the workplace more pleasant and productive for everyone.

3. Wellbeing Tech

Wearable tech can help your staff stay active. Wellbeing platforms can provide a real-time overview of your employees’ health. Smartphone apps can help you to create and maintain a healthy working culture. Absence management software can help you spot patterns, identify common causes of stress, and offer support where it’s needed when it’s needed. Head here to read our full guide to wellbeing technology, and how to make it a part of your employee assistance programme.

Conclusion: Using EAPs to Foster a Wider Culture of Wellbeing and Positivity

Your EAP should be part of a wider employee wellbeing programme.

No two employee wellbeing programmes are quite the same. But they’re all based on a commitment to truly empowering employees. They tend to promote regular exercise and good nutrition, as there are strong links between personal wellbeing and a healthy lifestyle. Employee wellbeing programmes also tend to promote flexible working and a good work/life balance as a means of avoiding stress and burnout. Want to know what a good employee wellbeing programme looks like? We took a look at some of the best in the world. Yes, they’re all from huge companies who doubtlessly have unlimited budgets to dedicate to employee wellbeing. But take a look and you’ll soon see that, beyond the swimming pools and tennis courts, all good employee wellbeing programmes are pretty simple at their core.

Edays has entered into a partnership with health insurer BHSF to offer an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP); providing a confidential service that supports employees with any issues that could be affecting their work or personal life. Combined with online GP services and powerful insights to better understand absenteeism, businesses have the complete solution to support their employees.

Free report: Discover the risks of employee absence on your company & benchmark against your industry leaders.

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Katrina Bennett People Director at edays
June 29, 2020

Katrina is edays' own People Director with significant UK and international experience in delivering people strategy and value-adding HR solutions across a range of organisations and sectors (including Arriva, Boots, Rolls Royce, the utility and charity sectors). Katrina has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources and is CIPD qualified.