With R U OK day coming up on the 12th of September, you’ll notice a spotlight focussed on the mental health of those around you, promoted through social media and television. R U OK day is about inspiring and empowering everyone to connect with people around them by having conversations that may help others who could be struggling with life.

As an employer, you no doubt take such an interest in the wellbeing of your team on a day to day basis, and may be considering how you can extend the support you offer employees beyond these kinds of conversations in the workplace.

What is an Employee Assistance Program?

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a confidential workplace service that employers pay for on behalf of their employees. There are many providers and various payment options available depending on the size and type of workplace. The counselling available through an EAP is there to help employees deal with work or general life stressors, family issues, financial concerns, relationship problems, and even drug or legal concerns.

Employee Assistance Programs can sometime be extended to both employees and their families and importantly, the details surrounding the employee’s problems are not released to the employer (or anyone else) without the employees’ request and written consent.

How can an EAP help the business?

Providing an EAP in your workplace can not only provide support at times of hardship, it can also help workers be more productive at work. Often personal issues impact the employee’s engagement and performance on the job, as well as their physical and mental health and well-being potentially leading to time off work. With a confidential counselling service available to employees, it is more likely early intervention will occur and reduce the impacts of the employee’s personal or work-related problems.

An EAP in your workplace can contribute to better staff morale and improved productivity, and provide a place for employees to talk about problems so they’re less likely to bring them into the workplace. While most people are happy to lend an ear to a colleague that might be struggling, we’ve all seem how this distraction can impact more than one person, and adversely affect productivity across the team. If you notice the same employee leaning on others repeatedly, then it’s even more important to have a trained professional to provide the right support to help this troubled employee.

Some things to consider when introducing EAP to your workplace:

  • The Employee Assistance Program is considered as an employee benefit or perk, so share this with a positive message and encourage people to use the service when needed.
  • Clearly communicate the process for accessing EAP, and make this process as confidential and “easy” as possible. You don’t want to put barriers in front of someone wanting help to get back to their best.
  • Consider limiting the number of sessions available. While some people will shun the idea of counselling, others see the value in free sessions and if not capped, the employer can end up financing counselling for months and months.
  • Encourage employees to also see their GP for support, particularly if they’re having time off work. Some people may benefit from a mental health care plan, and the professional they see under this Medicare subsidised program, may need to work with, or may complement the kind of assistance they get through the EAP.

For more information on R U OK day, head over to their website ruok.org.au and for advice on implementing an EAP in your workplace, get in touch with us today.