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Information of interest to our Clients and for the industry


The Role of an EAP in Improving Staff Performance
When we talk about poor mental health, it’s easy to think of personal problems like family and relationship issues, financial difficulties and a myriad of other concerns that occur in our every day lives. But what should really be at the forefront of our minds is work; the act of balancing work and home life, excessive demands, pressure to perform, lack of support… if it relates to work then it without question relates to mental health.

 

Every year in Australia, mental health concerns equate to approximately 6% of total workers’ compensation claims.But with the growing rate of mental health cases, awareness also grows and, in turn, strategies to manage the adverse effects.

 

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides employers with a positive and proactive approach to assisting workers who may be affected by personal and job related issues. It involves providing access to confidential counselling sessions, either in person or over the phone, for employees and their families, and puts them on a path towards a positive mindset.

So, how does an EAP actually improve staff performance? Let’s look at the facts because they’re alarming – poor mental health in the workplace is more prevalent than ever.

1. Each year 7,200 Australians are compensated for work related mental health concerns
2. Mental health related workers’ compensation claims cost $11 billion annually
3. People suffering from severe depression take 20 times more sick days per month than other workers

By providing our employees with a proactive platform to work through their concerns, with tailored strategies recommended by a trained professional, we encourage them to stay at or return to work, feel supported and happier. And happy employees create a positive and productive work environment! So let’s discuss some of the more specific benefits:

1. Increased employee productivity
It’s pretty simple really… when you’re mind isn’t distracted by a lengthy list of concerns, you’re more focused on the task in front of you. In a 2014 PricewaterhouseCoopers report it was identified that Australian businesses lose around $10.9billion annually in lost productivity.

2. Increased employee retention
It goes without saying that when employees are happy at work, they’re more likely to stay there. And the confidential nature of an EAP provides an outlet for those employees who wish to be discreet when it comes to mental health issues, or don’t have the means to gain access privately. An EAP lets employees know that they are supported at work, while assisting them to gain the help they need.

3. Increased employer profits
Remember that $11billion figure? When you’re employees are at work, productive and focused, you’re getting a return on your investment. There’s no lost money on sick days, deadlines being pushed back or contributing to co-workers stress levels. In the above mentioned PricewaterhouseCoopers report, it was discovered for every $1 invested in mental health initiatives, a return of $2.30 was received. And $3.60 for every $1 in the electricity, gas and water industry and $6.70 in mining.

4. Affordability for employers
The great thing about an EAP is that it can be relatively inexpensive to implement and can often cost far less than paying for a mental health related workers’ compensation claim. Consider an EAP an investment for your business, promote it to all your employees and calculate the return.

5. Positive clinical outcomes and a happier workforce
If you’ve ever had to step in to complete someone else’s task when a co-worker is off sick, you know the additional stress and ripple effect it can often create. By implementing an EAP program, not only are you helping your employees to better themselves and become happier, but the overall workforce won’t be adversely affected. A positive EAP program can often assist in creating a strong, collaborative and productive team.

For many Australian businesses, an EAP is already an integral part of their WHS strategy, implemented to assist in employee wellbeing. But for others, it can be executed as a response to an unfortunate event or used as a liability tool… but they’re missing out. Because not only does a positive EAP program provide qualified help to valuable workers who need it, it also assists employers gain back a percentage of lost absenteeism days, and ultimately improves the businesses bottom line.

A simple guide to talking to employees about mental health

Responsibilities at work may not always be the sole cause for poor metal health, but for some people, workload and stress can be a significant contributor. In Australia employers have a duty of care to ensure that employees are safe at work, both physically and psychologically, and can confidently perform their job without any adverse affects. So what happens when you suspect an employee is struggling mentally, and how do you approach it? Here are some steps to follow:

1.       Arrange a confidential meeting
Ensure that you arrange a confidential meeting, in an environment away from prying eyes where the person can feel comfortable. Be professional when scheduling so that you don’t further contribute to stress or anxiety.

2.       Be familiar with your workplace mental health resources
Be well versed in any company policies around mental health and resources available such as Employee Assistance Programs. Have hand-outs printed and sealed in a folder for the employee to take with them.

3.       Adopt an honest, upfront and caring approach
Start off by providing encouragement and pointing out the employees strengths and contributions that they bring to the business – it is important that they feel valued. Consider the conversation to be somewhat of a performance review where the positives are discussed first followed by concerns. Be clear in stating why you are concerned.

Be aware that your employee may not realise the impact their mental state is having on their work, feel as though their personal issues are not your concern, or alternatively they may think that everything is just fine. Be prepared to be dismissed. But if your employee is willing to open up, be supportive.

Consider asking open ended questions where the employee is able to steer the conversation in a direction they are comfortable. Ensure that you listen openly and provide encouragement. Don’t push for information which is outside of the scope of work related issues – it is not your business.

4.       Act!
It is important that you focus on solutions, not problems, and how you can help the employee in a business sense – remember that you’re not in their shoes, even if you think you have been before. Ensure that you document everything being said and consider ways of temporarily altering their job role and responsibilities to reduce pressure and workload. Offer your collected mental health resources and details about what’s included in the pack.

5.       Schedule a follow-up meeting
Don’t forget that you have a duty of care to ensure your employees are happy at work. Once the employee has had some time to digest the conversation, potentially seek help and you’ve altered their work responsibilities, check back in. If the employee’s mental state has not improved, or gotten worse, consider offering them the support of an Employee Assistance Program. Again consider their workload and responsibilities, and refer them to free phone and online resources, as well as community service providers such as doctors, psychologists and counsellors. And once again, after some time, repeat the process.

 

Talking to employees about mental health may seem a daunting process, but it’s the first step in taking positive strides to ensuring happy, healthy and efficient employees. And when you make mental health and wellbeing a priority in your workplace, your employees will thank you for it.

For further reading and free mental health resources, see:
Black Dog Institute: Workplace Mental Health Toolkit
Beyond Blue: Workplace Mental Health
Headspace
Lifeline – Phone: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue – Phone: 1300 22 4636