How employee assistance programmes could benefit your business

April 28, 2017 8:00 am


A 2016 poll by job site Bayt.com revealed that one in five found their job stressful in the Middle East. Nearly a third had frequent arguments with managers and co-workers.

Many workers are reluctant to open up to their boss, feeling uncomfortable about seeking emotional support from an authority figure. Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) are designed to get around this problem by offering confidential counselling from impartial, qualified practitioners.

Whether set up as part of your company or bought in via an independent third party, EAPs support and enhance mental wellbeing through counselling, online and telephone support, and in some cases physical health through general life management. It costs, of course, but the principle is that healthier staff mean a healthier, more productive business. So could it be a worthwhile investment for your business and, if so, how should you go about establishing an EAP?

How to introduce an EAP

The evidence is overwhelming: EAPs benefit business productivity and profit by nurturing a happy, healthy workforce. What business owner wouldn’t want that? So if you want to introduce an EAP for your staff, what are the main considerations?

1. Assess needs and reach out to insurance advisors

Start by doing some research and approaching insurance advisors. Many insurance providers offer a ready made EAP and this can, at the very least, give you an idea of what’s available. An EAP qualifies as an employee benefit and options you may wish to consider include:

* Counselling service: This can be face-to-face or via telephone and will deal with a range of issues, from performance or bereavement to substance abuse.

* Life management service: This can be financial, legal or personal advice.

* Wellbeing service: This can be focused on maintaining day-to-day health and general wellbeing (such as weight loss or exercise), and may involve a wellness coach.

* Management service: This can be extra training for management on the intricacies of the programme, tackling performance issues and handling difficult situations.

* Online services: This can be used to help deliver any of the above services.

2. Define an EAP that suits everybody

Once you know what services are available, decide which ones you should offer. This means taking into account the number of staff, the budget, and types of services that would benefit your employees. An important starting point is to ask whether an internal or external service would best suit the company. An internal EAP is set up and run by your company, while with an external EAP the sponsoring company forms a partnership with an outside supplier. There are benefits to both. An internal setup may mean a better understanding of the business and thus the ability to offer more specific programmes. An external programme may be viewed as more confidential or may have access to other resources.

3. Address the challenges and obstacles

Try to restrict duplication. Without clear boundaries, an EAP can end up repeating services already offered elsewhere in the company, such as in the health plan. Set in place ways to measure and monitor the performance of the programme. This will help to assess and quantify exactly how well it is working. Finally, define the level of qualification expected from EAP practitioners. For example, what minimum professional qualifications should the counsellor have?

Win-win

EAPs are now a popular offering both globally and within the Gulf region. Northrop Grumman, the leading global security company, offers its employees all over the UAE access to 24/7 support and six counselling sessions each year. This company is just one of a growing number to recognise one simple fact: everyone has more than one role in life, be it manager, colleague, friend, parent, sibling, carer, or provider. Sometimes these roles can create an unhealthy amount of distraction, worry, and stress. As an employer you are perfectly placed – and it is in your interests – to offer support before any work or personal issue becomes a larger problem.

The benefits will be enjoyed all round.

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Carole Khalifé is Head of Health & Group Benefits at Al Futtaim Willis, a joint venture between the Al Futtaim Group and Willis  
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