Never before in my career spanning 3+ decades have I heard so much talk about the need for stress and burnout management in the workplace.  Talk about employees suffering from depression and anxiety.  Talk about rising substance abuse.  And never before have the figures for absenteeism on the grounds of some or other mental health issue been so high, across the globe.

I liaise with company representatives on a daily basis, mostly HR, Wellness, and Health & Safety Practitioners.  These companies range in size from more than 5000 employees to less than 50.  Industries include retail, financial, insurance, legal, academic, medical, manufacturing, hospitality & tourism, and I’m sure some others that I have left out.  And so often I hear the same story…”We have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) in place so we are covered when it comes to employee mental health.”

Let me tell you a few things about EAPs.  Employers pay a monthly premium for these services, which is based on the number of people they employ, which provides an indication of the likely usage of the service.  Employees then have access to a limited amount of assistance from Counsellors should they be experiencing problems.  These problems might be financial, mental health, legal, etc.  And the employees’ families have the same access to assistance.  For example, if an employee and their family go through a violent home invasion, they can all access trauma counselling, usually up to 3 sessions.  Should they require more than this limit, they are referred to another service provider either at a government or private mental health facility depending on their financial circumstances.

So EAPs provide a service “after the fact”, that is, when employees are already in significant distress.  Unfortunately, many employees do not make use of the EAP due to the associated stigma and fear of their circumstances becoming known to Managers and colleagues.  Especially in today’s time of job insecurity, employees are reluctant to do anything that in their opinion could place their job in jeopardy.  Thoughts like, “They will think I am not good enough.” or “They will try to get rid of me.” are common obstacles in the way of accessing assistance from an EAP.  

In my opinion, and with all due respect, EAPs provide employers with peace of mind that they have mental health covered, but they do not realise that their EAP service provider is only attending to repairs, not to servicing and mainteance.  While the EAP service provider is making good money, which is why these services are popping up all over the place, the employer is not always getting good value for theirs.  EAPs do not reduce the likelihood of employees experiencing significant distress whether this arises from circumstances at work or elsewhere.

Enter mental health workshops.  These are designed to be informative, interactive, non-threatening, potentially team-building, group sessions to equip employees with effective coping strategies and therefore reduce the likelihood of them becoming significantly distressed.  Stress Management is one example, but there are many others that promote better employee mental health such as Burnout Management, Assertiveness Training, Remote Communication Pitfalls, Management of Hybrid Working, Building Resilience, and the list goes on.  These workshops are suitable for employees at every level in an organization and to groups of anything from 10 to +/-50 people.  They can be facilitated in-person on site or on-line.  Personally as a Facilitator, I prefer the in-person platform as it allows for more interaction, but the Covid pandemic showed everyone that second-best is better than nothing at all.

Managing work and life in 2023 is tricky…there are no quick fixes.  Ongoing, regular sessions to address the things that cause the trickiness are essential and companies that start implementing these sessions will in time reap the rewards.  These rewards will not be instantly obvious, but they will come as will be evident in staff retention, reduced absenteeism, and overall company performance. 

Finally, I want to acknowledge the fact that employers do not like spending money on services that do directly generate income (ROI).  Likewise, homeowners do not like spending money on maintaining their plumbing or damp-proofing.  And car owners are loath to spend money on servicing (maintaining) their vehicles. And our government decided not to spend money on the maintenance of our power generation plants.  I end by asking the question, “What is the cost of not attending to maintenance?”


Take care everyone.

Your Partner in Mental Health Matters @ Work,


If you enjoyed this content, why not give it a share!