Why Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) should be a part of the new normal

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has shifted the way that many employers look after and engage with their people. It’s created an unprecedented and urgent need to review and adapt their approach. The physical distance and deluge of virtual meetings whilst juggling family members at home aren’t the only challenges.

The World Health Organization announced that the main psychological impact of coronavirus seen to date is elevated stress and anxiety, with levels of loneliness, depression, alcohol and drug use, and self-harm or suicidal behaviour expected to rise.[1]

In times like these, employers could really benefit from providing an extra level of care to employees and their families.

Introducing EAPs

One major support tool employers can provide is an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). An EAP is an employee benefit that assists employees with personal or work-related problems that may impact their job performance, health, mental and emotional wellbeing. EAPs can really help employees through these incredibly challenging and uncertain times.

They provide access to virtual counselling sessions, as well as referral services and health and wellbeing programmes for the employee and for their extended family. This can include sessions on specific ways to deal with stress and anxiety such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and other longer-term tools to equip employees to manage their mental health.

What are the benefits of an EAP?

It’s not just about supporting your teams through mental health struggles during the pandemic. It goes without saying that employee health and wellbeing is a key consideration for most of employers. Those who make their staff feel happy and secure are naturally going to inspire and benefit from a more productive and engaged workforce.

Managing or overcoming health and wellbeing concerns of your employees reinforces both trust and respect, which are vital for any successful business. It can also give support in other times of need. For example, Canada Life Group Insurance found in March 2019 respondents struggled with their mental health at an even greater rate during the winter months.[1]

Programme providers themselves are also responding to COVID, with top-tier EAPs analysing the socio-economic shift and changing access to healthcare as a result of the pandemic and how they can step up to provide greater support and resources.[1]


Returning the spotlight to the people agenda

Whilst people have been high on many companies’ agendas, COVID-19 has well and truly brought the people agenda back into the spotlight, and with it the differences between organisations that effectively support employees, and those that haven’t. We’re entering a period of ‘the new-normal’, and this is as relevant to the people in your business as it might be to your physical office space or supply chain. When many businesses are looking carefully at the bottom line, what might be perceived as an expensive outlay could be a very affordable investment in people with a longer-term return.

Pastoral frameworks and support systems are crucial for businesses, but a more robust, confidential and reliable system that sits outside of the organisation like an EAP could mean the difference between an employee getting the help they need or suffering in silence.

How can we help?

We’re anticipating a rise in EAP implementation post-COVID, and want to help our clients to get the best fit programme that perfectly fits their needs. We can help you come up with a plan to help manage and safeguard your employees’ health and wellbeing, and build a culture of trust and resilience within your business.

If you have any questions about whether an EAP is right for you, or you’d like to talk in more detail about specific elements of the programme, please get in touch. We can provide free impartial advice and look to identify a plan that fits within your requirements and budget.


[1] https://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/health-emergencies/coronavirus-covid-19/technical-guidance/mental-health-and-covid-19

[1] https://employeebenefits.co.uk/poll-36-eaps-winter-months/

[1] https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/how-top-tier-eaps-can-facilitate-the-post-pandemic-return-to-work

Steve Hope

Employee Benefits Director