Employee Assistance Programme—the key to happy workplace

An intervention programme can help support employees who are going through work-related or personal stress.

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There is an apparent pull and push amongst businesses across industries for one reason— employees. It is a known fact that having the right talent is a game changer, or rather, a game enabler for all organisations. In today’s age and time, each company is competing to get the best slice of talent available in the market.

While hiring competitive human capital is challenging for organisations, an even bigger challenge is to retain them and not lose them to competitors. Thus, it is important to provide the hired talent with the warm and comfortable space required to make them stay loyal, contented. Providing them the right working environment and atmosphere will also ensure that their productivity does not decline.

Whether they are employees at the baseline, middle level or at the top, the C-Suite is churning out innovative practices to assist the employees in every possible way to ensure their well-being, both at work and at home.

Interestingly, many avenues open up for employers to extend a supporting hand to employees in their lives through a systematic approach called Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).

First introduced in the mid-1900s, to address the problem of alcoholism at work, EAP was started in the US. The objective at the time was to overcome the falling job performances and productivity amongst employees, who were alcoholic.

Research shows that work-related stress is on the rise, and this programme aims to support employees in overcoming all kinds of negative emotions arising at work. Moreover, EAP also helps to support employees suffering from mid-life crises. The sessions within this programme make changing careers a lot easier. It is especially helpful to those who plan to start work all over again after a break due to a physical or mental ill health.

There has been phenomenal growth in the EAP space, covering all aspects of an employee’s work life such as:

• Coping with work
• Managing work-related stress
• Relationship with colleagues
• Bullying and harassment
• Productivity and performance
• Conflict and anger management

Presently, EAP also addresses personal issues hampering the performance of employees at work. The programme helps to resolve matters associated with negative events, traumas and losses, which generally are a cause for mental illness, such as negativity, anxiety or depression. In addition, EAP is directed towards helping employees going through abusive relationships as well.
In short, it covers the following personal problems:

• Family problems (with spouse, children)
• Substance abuse
• Abusive relationships
• Separation and divorce
• Financial and legal issues
• Low-self esteem
• Emotion management
• Stress, anger and anxiety management

The direct benefits of EAP are reduced absenteeism, higher productivity and lower turnover. In some organisations, a 24-hour hotline is made available for the employees to quickly talk and get support without having to wait. Moreover, there is continuous counselling that employees can sign up for in case they see a need.

Apparently, organisations are taking more and more responsibility for the overall well-being of their employees and EAP echoes the same. The CEOs and CHROs are collaboratively working towards improving employee satisfaction so that performances stay steady and overall business objectives are met.

Some organisations outsource this through an external service provider so as to keep the assistance programme (counselling) confidential. Employees freely discuss their issues with the assigned person without any hesitation or embarrassment. EAP is offered to employees free of cost and these services are often delivered via phone, video-conferencing, online chatting, e-mail interactions or even face-to-face.

The underlining purpose of EAP is to support the well-being of employees at work and in their personal lives. However, not many organisations in India are offering this service to their employees.

The few CHROs–from sectors, such as IT, FMCG and electronics and appliances–that HRKatha spoke with have not yet implemented EAP in their organisations. The handful of MNCs that are offering this programme to their employees, have definitely become some of the best companies to work with. These employers have earned a substantial amount of loyalty as well.

Cost can be a constraint for widespread adoption of EAP in our country. However, considering its innumerable benefits, it will not be long before more and more companies start to offer this programme to their employees. There is enough evidence available from the many researches done at the workplace, that mental illness is on the rise, and only EAPs will help organisations deal with such issues early on.

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