COVID-19 has taken the intensity and range of employee challenges in 2020 to a new level. With the ongoing uncertainty caused by this pandemic, many employees are experiencing increased stress and anxiety. More than ever, employers are concerned about how to provide the necessary support to their employees. EAPs are a valuable resource as part of an organisation’s employee benefits programme. Now more than ever it is sensible to ensure that employees avail themselves of this worthwhile benefit.
What are the benefits of an EAP?
Based around confidential counselling, EAPs offer resources to help employees address personal issues that may be affecting their work performance, health and emotional wellbeing – as well as helping them manage work-life balance. These can include marital issues, stress, depression, substance abuse and grief. Through offering EAPs, employers get to benefit from a healthier and more productive workforce.
Getting employees to use an organisation’s EAP may have historically been a challenge. However, today, employers are uniquely positioned to encourage employees to focus on their physical and emotional health. Here are four things you can do to ensure your employee take better advantage of this benefit:
1. Make sure all employees know you offer an EAP and exactly what it is about
This may seem obvious, but many employees are unsure what an EAP covers, who can use it, and the range of issues it’s designed to address.
- Put flyers or posters in a break room and other high traffic areas
- Feature EAP services in stories on your intranet or internal social media channels
- Go over the benefits with smaller groups at team meetings.
2. Reinforce that EAPs are completely confidential
Workers may be under the false impression that they must ask permission from a supervisor to get an EAP appointment. All EAP materials should make it clear that no referral is needed and that EAP counsellors respect strict privacy laws and do not share information about counselling sessions with the employer – unless an individual is deemed to be a danger to themselves or colleagues.
3. Erase any stigma associated with seeking help
Employees may think that reaching out for help is a sign of weakness. Seeking help should be promoted as normal in the same way that employees are encouraged to take their allocated vacation days to revitalise or see a doctor when they are sick.
4. Let employees know the EAP is not just for big issues
Although EAPs are able to help employees dealing with major trauma or challenges, that is not their only purpose. It is important for employees to know that EAP counsellors can offer support and insight on any debilitating issue, which include workplace dynamics, financial management, and family issues. An EAP is there to offer an expert, objective voice when something in life is not working well.
No-one expects working life to simply ‘go back to normal’, and there will definitely be a post-COVID-19 legacy for EAPs. The shift to working from home and the increased familiarity with online video calls have already started to change the nature of everyday habits and remote counselling is likely to become the norm. Face-to-face sessions are likely to still be available, but may be seen more as an exception down the line. 1
Beyond offering valuable resources and tools such as an EAP to support employees, reinforcing a culture of wellbeing can have a positive organisational impact – even if employees work from home.
- Renew the organisation’s focus on wellbeing: While some aspects of an existing Health and Wellness programme may need to be adjusted or enhanced, recognising the continued importance of wellbeing during this time can connect employees and bring them together, even across distances. Offering employees access to resources and support to maintain their overall wellbeing demonstrates an organisation’s ongoing commitment to support its workforce.
- Meet employees where they are: During the coronavirus lockdown, even employees who are currently going into a physical workplace do not have access to a gym or other fitness resources they would usually rely on. To continue meeting employees’ needs, employers may need to think outside the box and consider offering new and virtual opportunities to engage their workforce in fitness and other wellness programmes – or to introduce new features to existing programmes, redesigned to reach people wherever they are.
- Re-evaluate incentive design: Incentives can play an important role in kick-starting a wellbeing programme but each organisation is unique and it is important to accommodate ongoing changes and ensure the requirements are appropriate and attainable. Creating opportunities to continue participating in workplace wellness programmes now can create long-term, sustained engagement on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Enhance wellness communications: Providing the means for employees to continue their wellbeing journey remotely, is the first step but it is just as important to make sure workers are made aware that these options exist. Ensuring employees know what is available will help to drive participation, helping employees to take advantage of these tools and resources, wherever they are.
Communication efforts will provide a great opportunity to highlight or target specific resources of value right now. Many service providers offer a wealth of content related to these topics and more that can be used to communicate with employees:
- Being active at home
- Work-life balance
- Setting up a healthy workspace at home