The impact of mental health challenges on a business is ongoing. With the challenge life continues to throw at us it is important that a business initiates support strategies to help employees. An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) gives staff access to counselling with absolute confidentiality and no cost to the individual. The cost sits with the business for any use of the service and if you balance it with a high return of investment of reduced absenteeism, presenteeism and providing a safe work place, then it is well worth the dollars spent. An EAP Program is not a quick fix, it is an ongoing support offered to all employees.
EAP is a counselling service employers offer to staff to support wellbeing. Employers may also choose to extend this short term psychological assistance to family members of employees. The EAP sessions can assist with family problems, conflict at work, anger, career goals, sleep difficulties or ongoing mental health challenges. Most EAP services also offer 24/7 crisis support.
It is understandable that Small Business Owners immediately think that EAP is a cost they cannot afford. The cost of not supporting employees is even greater. In 2017 PWC (Price Waterhouse Coopers) completed a study that indicated for every $1 spent on a mental health initiative to support employees a positive return on investment of approximately $2.30 is reached. Furthermore according to Heads Up (Beyond Blue) there are 6 million working days lost in Australian businesses each year due to untreated and unsupported mental health challenges. Supporting these challenges and increasing productivity has a direct impact on a business profit margin.
Some questions to consider when choosing the right EAP for your business:
- Are the counsellors/psychologists qualified to support mental health issues?
- Is the package flexible to suit your employee’s needs?
- Does the EAP provider have easy access 24 hour support?
- Is the EAP accessible to all employees/family members without the business being notified?
- Does the EAP provide targeted health promotion information to heighten awareness of both the EAP program and positive healthy behaviours?
- Are on-site services such as employee education, management training, mediation and organizational development offered?
- Is the EAP all inclusive for a variety of possible community needs?
To begin the journey of setting up an EAP program it is best to do some homework about which EAP provider would best suit your business situation. There are many providers that provide specific small business packages, and they are always keen to support a workplace no matter how big or small.
Once you have initiated an EAP program it is vital that all employees are made aware of how the system works. Provide employees with information regarding the issues that can be supported, ensure them of the confidentiality process and most of all give them access to the sessions whenever and however they choose to use it. It is a matter of building trust for all involved that accessing the service will not be detrimental to the employee. In some ways it is something to celebrate if employees access the service as it is indicating that they are working to manage their challenges.
This article was written by the Geelong Chamber’s wellbeing team.