Employee assistance programs are big news at the moment. Many large organisations are taking a range of steps to protect staff wellbeing and mental health.  These include setting up dedicated health and wellbeing support online portals, network web pages, providing mental health first aiders and signposting, and monthly staff health and wellbeing bulletins.

Leeds NHS Trust is one of the latest NHS providers to sign a pledge supporting the principles of the Nursing Times Covid-19: Are You OK? campaign. However, for some of those accessing such programs more widely, they may be seen as nothing more than a box-checking exercise, and not really addressing employee needs.

What is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?

An employee assistance program (EAP) is an employer-based scheme that allows employees contact with independent advisors, on a variety of issues, on a confidential basis.

Employees are able to contact professionals to discuss issues that may be troubling them including financial problems, worries about their employment, or problems with their mental health. An EAP will provide a range of support in a variety of ways.

Not all programs are created equal.

For the most part, EAPs are based on company culture – and no two companies are the same – they come in all shapes and sizes. Staff have different problems and worries as well as different requirements when it comes to accessing support.

When it comes to setting up an EAP, it’s definitely not a ‘one size fits all’ solution.

Not all issues can be solved with an Employee Assistance Program

If you have staff with long-term health conditions, are neurodiverse or have a disability, you may be of the opinion that you can use your EAP to support them in the same way as you would the rest of your staff.

Whilst there is an appeal to this approach, it will certainly not always meet the wellbeing needs of all employees.

If your EAP offers support for example anxiety and depression, it should also be able to focus on issues widen than the emotional side. These interventions aren’t alone, going to increase the dopamine levels. And if they don’t offer the right support, and address triggers, solutions, they are likely to make your employees feel worse.

You don’t need a huge budget to offer a decent Employee Assistance Program

A lot of the news around EAPs comes from large organisations, but that doesn’t mean that SMEs can’t put something in place.

With over 6 million SMEs in the UK (over 99% of all businesses), there are plenty of options out there when it comes to outsourced EAPs. The key is, to identify what you want from an EAP, what problems it will help address. It may be. that addressing wellbeing culture and practices will meet your business and employee needs.

Benefits of outsourcing your Employee Assistance Program

Aside from the cost benefits of outsourcing your EAP, there are other benefits to consider, such as having people outside of your organisation handling the sensitive issues of your employees.

Not many employees feel that their HR department has their best interests at heart and will therefore be reluctant to share all their concerns. Working with outsourced consultants can go a long way to reassuring employees that the advice they receive is totally impartial.

In conclusion…

I think every business should have some form of EAP available to employees, because no matter how big, or small, your business is, there are bound to be difficulties, triggered either internally or externally, encountered that get in the way of everyone performing at their best.

Employee Assistance Programs may not solve these problems, but they can provide support and possible practical solutions.

To find out more about how Tudor Rose Workplace Wellbeing can help support your business and employee’s wellbeing, get in touch.