Since the pandemic, there’s been a new focus in workplaces on mental health – and Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) have boomed. But are they really needed, do they do what they’re supposed to do, and do people actually use them? Here’s some answers to some key stress support questions…
Do we really need an EAP?
Well, yes, probably. According to mental health charity MIND, 1 in 4 people will have mental health problems this year – including common disorders like anxiety and depression, as well as conditions like bipolar disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder. Over the course of their lifetime, 1 in 5 people will have suicidal thoughts. 1 in 15 will attempt to die by suicide.
Mental health matters – and it IS impacting your business.
Stress, including workplace stress, is a key trigger for mental health issues. The Office for National Statistics puts mental health as the third most common reason for sickness absence, accounting for 7.9% of days off work sick in the UK.
How much are mental health issues at work costing?
Further research from our key health partners AXA UK, in the latest economic modelling with the Centre of Economic and Business Research, shows work-related stress and burnout is currently costing the UK economy £28bn a year and resulting in 23.3m sick days a year.
Data from AXA’s Mind Health Study reveals almost half (47%) of the country are currently struggling or ‘languishing’ – which they define as an absence of positive wellbeing or in emotional distress.
Do people use EAPs?
Personnel Today puts the average usage figure for EAPs at around 10% - so if it’s available to all of your staff, around 10% are likely to use it.
Meanwhile, the EAP Association (EAPA) estimates UK EAP services are available to 24.45 million employees working across more than 105,000 organisations.
What do people use them for?
People use EAPs to talk about all sorts of things. Studies show around 70% of respondents accessed an EAP due to workplace stress, 57% of respondents due to depression, with other reasons including family events (56% of respondents), conflict with line managers (20% of respondents), workplace restructure (15% of respondents), and bullying (6% of respondents).
While the majority of calls received by EAPs continue to be due to general anxiety and depression, a growing number include an element of ‘risk’ to the employee – meaning they’re in danger of self harm of some kind and need immediate support. The EAPA estimate those ‘red flags’ appear in around 1.7% of counselling cases.
Do EAPs actually work?
It looks like they do. According to the EAPA, 68% of employees contacting EAP services in 2022 needed to be offered the support of counselling, and in 2022 EAPs in the UK provided more than 1.375m counselling sessions. And according to an Institute for Health study, up to 70% of people showed improvement after EAP intervention.
Are EAPs actually worth it?
Also, probably yes. There is more research to do in term of return on investment, but the EAPA’s latest ROI report suggests organisations are increasingly reporting more savings in terms of reduced staff absence and gains in productivity. Figures from the period between October 2021 and October 2022 show that for every £1.00 spent on an EAP in the UK, employers have seen an average ROI of £10.85.
Perhaps even more compelling is the estimate that EAPs spotted and intervened to support more than 10,000 seriously ‘at risk’ people in 2022.
Who provides Equipsme’s stress support line?
At Equipsme, our stress support line is provided by Health Assured – the UK and Ireland’s largest independent and award-winning EAP provider, offering specialist support to over 13 million people.
How can my business make the most out of Equipsme’s stress support line?
Make sure mental health is something that’s talked about openly in your workplace, through your internal comms, and via your senior management team.
2. Train your team
Make sure your line managers understand your mental health and wellbeing policies and are trained to spot issues and signpost to support. If you don’t already have mental health champions, you can find things like mental health champion or mental health first aid training online.
3. Target men
Men are less likely to be open about their mental health than women – with 40% saying they’ve never discussed it. They are also three times more likely to die by suicide. It’s really important to make sure any mental health initiatives take that reluctance into account, so men aren’t left out of the conversation.
4. Big up confidentiality
One of the main reasons people don’t use stress support or EAP services is out of concern things will get back to their employer. Make sure your people know that Equipsme’s stress support service is 100% confidential, and anything they say will be between them, the call handler, and any counsellor they’re referred on to.
If stress support is part of your Equipsme package – or if this article has convinced you to add it at your renewal – make sure people know about it! Plaster the number on notice boards, across your intranet, and on the back of loo doors. Get the word out that getting it all out in words is just a phone call away.