It's essential to support employees with mental health issues through an effective employee assistance programme, says Gary Danson.
09 January 2019 | Gary Danson
According to the Mental Health Foundation, around one in seven people experiences mental health
problems in the workplace, and better mental health support in the workplace can save UK businesses up to £8 billion a year.
An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which offers confidential advice to staff, can address this problem in a practical and pre-emptive way.
An EAP should offer:
- Life support and unlimited counselling for emotional problems;
- Legal information for issues causing anxiety or distress;
- Bereavement assistance from qualified and experienced counsellors;
- Medical information from qualified nurses offering practical advice on a range of medical issues;
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) services that include information sheets and videos from leading counsellors; and
- A well-being health platform with advice on how to keep your body and mind in shape.
We decided to enhance our existing support systems, having previously operated a more traditional policy, which saw employees speaking to their line manager and pointed towards external resources.
We wanted to make the process of voicing problems easier and less intimidating by offering an independent and confidential resource for staff as a first port of call.
We provided a free telephone number with access to trained counsellors. Alongside this, they have access to an E-Hub, with online resources and advice.
This was taken to the company directors to make the final decision before rolling it out to the business, which wanted an affordable solution to deliver its objectives.
The whole process took about six weeks to research. We decided on a comprehensive programme our staff members could rely on, including advice and guidance on issues - legal, financial, relationships, housing, retirement - and factors affecting mental health.
Three months after the launch of our EAP we sent out a survey to all staff members. The findings showed:
- 80 per cent of staff felt the EAP is a good addition to our mental health support; and
- 95 per cent of staff members rated our mental health support as excellent or good.
While the feedback shows a job well done, we learnt a lot in the process to make the programme a success.
Create a clear communications plan before the launch of the EAP to make sure the benefits of the programme are understood among staff.
Start communications early, at least a month before the launch of your EAP.
Vary the channels (physical guide, emails, blogs and digital updates on our internal communications platform) to promote the EAP.
Build the buzz and make a big splash on launch day.
Keep the discussion going after the EAP launch by talking about mental health topics and the services on offer.
We try to share a relevant story, video, interview or tips on a monthly basis and this can be done via printed staff newsletters or online communications platforms. Since the EAP's implementation, we've seen staff members coming forward to discuss their own mental health - a sure sign that the process is working.
And after you've looked at the effectiveness of your EAP?
Organise events. An effective use of the EAP is to provide opportunities to participate as a team.
We formed a team of 14 staff from across the business to participate in the Great West Run to raise money for the Mental Health Foundation.
We also took part in the foundation's Tea and Talk initiative, which encourages people to talk about their mental health.
As part of this we organised a tea party at our head office, while staff working in the field received a pack of goodies and mental health advice for them to enjoy during their breaks.
The premise of this was to start a conversation and normalise discussion about mental health.
A whole range of personal and work-related issues can lead to serious mental health problems and an effective EAP can help staff strengthen their mental health and support them when problems arise.
Gary Danson is operations director at surface repair and restorations firm Plastic Surgeon