‘What To Look For When Choosing An Employee Assistance Programme’, ‘How do I select the best Employee assistance programme’, and ‘A buyer’s guide to EAPs’ are just some of the articles and brochures employers might read when looking to implement a programme. These articles detail what to look for, the process of integrating into the workplace, the cost and effectiveness of the programmes, and as EAP providers provide us with useful insight into what our customer’s needs are.
Although 47% of the UK workforce are estimated to be covered by an EAP[source], it has been documented that EAP provisions are often underused in the workplace. Figures suggest average programme use is around 5% of the workforce [source].
Employers are constantly looking to improve their EAP’s return on investment and uptake within the business. But what can we as EAPs do to promote both these things among employees? We need to look at what a good EAP service looks like, from the perspective of the employee and from our own professional perspective. We need to do this to make sure we are fulfilling our side of the bargain when it comes to maximising uptake, and making sure employers can make referrals efficiently so they are kept happy, fulfil the maximum ROI from their programmes, and ultimately continue to be our customers.
This is why it helps if we can wear two hats.
Hat one: The employee
What would an employee who was using your EAP counselling service say about it? How would they say it can be improved? To understand how EAPs are perceived and utilised we need to wear our ‘employee’ hat, to see our service from their perspective.
Access and purpose
Employees have to know that an EAP exists, that’s obvious. But more than that; do they know what they can use it for? Head of Wellbeing for the Bank Workers Charity, Paul Barrett, comments that some employers think of their EAP from a limited perspective – a perk if you will, rather than a source of support [source], which they will incorrectly communicate to the employee. Workers should know that it can be accessed not just when the going gets tough, but for every-day stresses and strains well before they reach crisis point [source]. If they know this, then the likelihood of them using the programme will be greater. Employees will also use the service if they know it is confidential[source].
As an employee, once you know that you have access to an EAP and what it can be used for, you’re going to want to be able to access it, easily, quickly, with no hoop jumping. You don’t want to have to endure a complex process of requesting help, copious amounts of paperwork and then have to navigate choosing a counsellor, especially when you’re in a vulnerable situation.
Once you’re at the stage of choosing a therapist, or perhaps your EAP has found a selection for you. How do you know which one to go for? Not only do you need a qualified, competent professional you need one which can meet the needs of the counselling you require.
Availability and proximity
You want to be able to attend your counselling session with the comfort of knowing that you’ll be going somewhere private, but that isn’t a geographical inconvenience to get to. You also want them to be available when you are available. It would help being able to see their schedule to avoid any awkward ‘to and froing’ emails deciphering when you are both available. Above all you want to avoid a waiting list.
Hat two: An EAP professional
One hat we wear which is very firmly secured to our head, is our own. What do we know we need in order to do our job properly – but crucially how does that align with what employees need?
The setting in which counselling or psychotherapy takes place is paramount. Draughty, clinical and intimidating settings are not conducive to positive therapeutic outcomes. In an appropriate premises – somewhere which is cosy, private, comfortable and calming – the employee as going to feel more at ease and able to talk. It’s important the mental health providers which work with you as an EAP operate out of such establishments. And security comes in more than just how the room looks and feels. Premises need to adhere to safety standards and fire regulations.
From the fundamentals like CRB, DBS and being insured to the diversity of their career experience,
who looks after your clients is also obviously incredibly important. The UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) outlines some of the considerations of counsellors working with EAPs.
It is your responsibility to make sure the clinical needs of the employee are being met [source]. Having a diverse set of therapists on your books and those with experience working with particular industry sectors, geographic range, or with certain skill sets, is invaluable to you as a professional and what you can offer your client. If you’re able to access a range of affiliates who are organisationally aware and can fill skills gap in your network, then all the better. You want therapists that are proactive with their CPD and and up to date with their training.
The relationships that the therapists and counsellors facilitate are significant; be that communicating effectively with your case management team, or forming good therapeutic relationships with employees. As we know, positive outcomes directly correlate with good therapeutic relationships. You can have the therapists on the books but if the right relationships aren’t formed then positive outcomes are not going to be reached.
Affiliates who conduct themselves professionally, are good at record keeping, and managing their case loads efficiently are people you want to work with. When they are IT savvy and can use or learn the systems you work with, then that’s an added bonus[source].
With renewed focus and awareness about mental health among the public, the EAP sector is facing increasing demand for face-to-face counselling[source]– and that puts a strain on resources across the EAP industry as we need to have more counsellors on the books. Finding great counsellors and therapists at the right price point is key, and can be difficult.
As an EAP you are going to be measured on the effectiveness of the service you provide – and that effectiveness is measured and experienced by the end user – manifested in the the employee’s improvement at work. As we have seen, a positive outcome arrives when two aspects of the EAP service work together; when it is optimal for the employee and when you have all the resources to be able to deliver and do your job properly.
How A Room in Town can help
A Room in Town provides fully furnished, comfortable and functional talking therapy rooms in central London locations to private practice counsellors and talking therapists. We have approximately 200 therapists who operate from our rooms and we can make introductions and support referrals, at scale, for EAP providers who are looking to add therapists to their affiliate network. To find out more about what we can offer and to enquire see our website.
If you’d like to speak to a member of the team about how we can help visit our EAP page, call 020 7887 2674 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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