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How to Support Your Employees as We Return to Work

Addressing employee mental health and wellbeing has continued to grow in awareness for all employers over the last decade but a year long national lockdown and global pandemic along with the challenges of prolonged furlough for some and remote working for others has now brought the issue into ever sharper focus. So, what can businesses do to help ease employees back into a more stable work routine and support general wellbeing? Our Healthcare Manager, Chris Cunnington, outlines the wider benefits of employee assistance programmes and why they are important for businesses in 2021.

As we start to imagine what life will be like post-pandemic and begin to catch a glimpse at the finish line ahead, businesses are starting to prepare for a return to a more structured working pattern. After working from home for almost a year now, the ‘new normal’ may look quite different to what we have previously known, and the added effects of this latest unknown challenge is having on employee wellbeing is starting to show. According to some media reports, we are now facing ‘the greatest threat to mental health since the second world war’. So, how does this affect your business? Recent reports have shown that a growing number of employees are turning to employers for support.

  • 71% of workers believe that their employers have a social responsibility to their staff including an increased role in their welfare, wellbeing, and overall happiness.
  • 62% of employers recognise their responsibilities to employees.

It seems the time spent in isolation and the experience of a new way of working has allowed employees to take a step back and recognise the need for support through these uncertain times. As we enter the post-pandemic world, employers will have a need, and indeed an obligation, to listen to the needs of their staff and play a greater role in supporting them mentally, which is exactly where the additional benefits of healthcare insurance and Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) come into play.

EAPs are intended to help employees deal with personal problems and/or work-related issues that may impact their job, performance, health, mental and emotional well-being. They generally tend to include assessment, counselling and referral services for employees and their immediate family.

A recent report from Towergate Health & Protection has highlighted the increasing use of counselling and therapy services to help employees return to work during the pandemic. Of those employees absent from work prior to starting therapy, 38% had returned within eight weeks of starting the sessions. A small additional benefit, such access to confidential counselling, can empower employees to take control of any mental health problems and address concerns instead impacting their performance in the workplace, or avoiding work altogether.

In 2019/2020 a record 17.9 million working days were lost due to work-related mental health issues, compared to just 12.8 million days in the previous year and this is only predicted to rise. This time lost can be detrimental to businesses already under operational stress, so seeking prevention before it results in employee absenteeism is highly recommended. Knowing your team has access to services designed to maintain wellbeing will also provide an employer with peace of mind, allowing you to focus on the running of the business, especially vital for SMEs.

The pandemic has certainly highlighted the need for employees to offer healthcare benefit packages that aide employee health and wellbeing as they return to the workplace. The new normal isn’t just about social distancing and face coverings, it’s about how employers are responding to the changes to the workplace and working to meet the new demands of their workforce. And it falls on the shoulders of the employer to make these services available and ensure employees take full advantage of them.

For more information and how you can introduce Employee Assistance Programmes to your business, please contact us or email your details to Chris Cunnington, Business Healthcare Manager at: chris.cunnington@russellscanlan.com.

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