The primary goal of an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) has always been to help with resolving or managing problems that can interfere with an employee’s ability to perform their work. They are able to provide employees with the tools and resources that they need to improve their mental health and help achieve work life balance or integration. They can reduce the number of accidents and decrease health care costs or workman’s compensation claims. They can lower the number of grievances brought before Human Resources. In addition, they can reduce costs related to employee turnover through improved retention rates and happier or more satisfied employees. With the effects of COVID-19 currently in play, now, more than ever, it is fitting for organisations to make full use of EAPs as a valuable resource partner.
“The primary goal of an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) has always been to help with resolving or managing problems that can interfere with an employee’s ability to perform their work.”
“EAPs should be a powerful organisational tool in dealing with the aftermath of any health crisis – corporate or individual…”
The benefit of EAPs in a health crisis
EAPs should be a powerful organisational tool in dealing with the aftermath of any health crisis – corporate or individual – including the alarming growth in mental health issues that have arisen out of the coronavirus pandemic. EAPs should fulfil the following four functions:
- Collaborative planning with organisations around strategies for integrating behavioural health: with one outcome being helping to normalise mental health and wellness issues in the same way that physical health and wellness issues are seen as normal.
- Development of ongoing programmes that are built into the culture and operations of organisations: This demonstrates leadership’s sincere concern and care for the employees’ emotional wellbeing – including issues such as diversity and inclusion and gender-based violence.
- Development of ongoing training sessions to help leaders and managers know how to identify employees in need: by focusing on what to look for and how to talk with employees about issues such as mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention.
- Providing tools for helping employees and family members in distress: including being aware of the scope of their employer’s EAP and knowing how to access the EAP for help.
The benefit of EAPs in dealing with change
EAPs should be a powerful organisational tool in dealing with change as employees return to the workplace. People may have adjusted to working from home since the compulsory lockdown was announced in South Africa in March 2020, but with the end of the COVID-19 third wave bringing a drop to lockdown level one, more change is on the cards. Some organisations are beginning to think about transitioning their employees, at least in part, back to the office at the beginning of 2022. While final decisions are still up in the air, the uncertainty of what may come is stress-inducing. And, while employees may have missed their colleagues and in-person team interaction, for some, the thought of the re-upheaval in routines when returning to an office setting after surviving the radical changes that COVID-19 brought is overwhelming, giving rise to a fresh wave of anxiety that should not be ignored.
“EAPs should be a powerful organisational tool in dealing with change as employees return to the workplace.”
“More than ever before, your employees are likely to have a lot on their plate outside of the workplace.”
The benefit of EAPs beyond the “working day”
More than ever before, your employees are likely to have a lot on their plate outside of the workplace. Employees’ productivity can suffer from marital and family turmoil; medical, financial, or legal problems. EAPs are able to identify and address a wide range of health, financial, and social issues and offer help in areas such as:
- Family services: An EAP that includes family services can provide employees with marriage counselling sessions, family planning, child safety measures, and legal issues about emotional or physical abuse.
- Caregiving issues: Besides taking care of their own well-being through fitness plans, nutrition guidance, and managing dread diseases, an EAP can also extend to helping employees who are a caregiver or taking care of a family member. This would include helping an employee find day-care services, nursing homes, at-home child care, or eldercare.
- Financial wellbeing: Employees may need assistance from an EAP regarding budgeting advice, debt repayment, establishing an emergency fund, or a strategy to achieve healthy spending habits.
- Grief assistance: EAPs can offer support for employees who have lost a loved one or for employees who are experiencing the loss of a co-worker.
Given the escalating need for mental, physical and emotional support of employees in their work and personal lives, implementing a reliable support structure such as an EAP is an investment that will help provide valuable ongoing support to employees long after the larger manifestations of COVID-19 pandemic have passed. If your workplace is adapting to the new normal, make sure your EAP is doing the same.
- After the unforeseen events of the past 20 months, revisit the EAP resources available to your employees and ensure your EAP has all bases covered.
- Promote your EAP and make sure your employees are fully aware of the services available to them.
- Make sure it is easy for your employees to get the help they need through being empowered to access all the services available.