5 ways to encourage a wellness program to support your employees

Supporting your employees is essential to providing a workplace environment that is both stable and conducive to hard work and effective collaboration. However, the topic of mental health is often difficult to raise in a trade workplace, and the input of managers and business owners is vital to ensure a proper system exists for supporting employee wellbeing.

A simple wellness program may take the form of monthly mental health seminars and scheduled wellbeing time, reinforced by scheduled sit-downs with employees who are seen to be struggling. To assist in the rollout and oversight of these initiatives, an EAP can be used to ensure that your wellness program has the intended positive effect on employee wellbeing.

What is an EAP?

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a service that supports employees to maintain and improve their wellbeing. EAP services often involve face-to-face and phone counselling where an employee can access therapy confidentially, at no cost, via their workplace program. They may seek counselling related to any number of issues, work related or otherwise. Increasingly, EAP is becoming more than just crisis counselling, as digital services offer more proactive content and support that reduces the stigma associated with mental health.

EAP services tend to focus on short term counselling to address problems from minor issues to complex conditions. If long term support is required, the EAP program can assist in transferring users to more complex therapy options.

Why would a business offer an EAP to employees?

There are many ways that an EAP is beneficial for a business to offer for their employees. In fact, businesses have been known to receive a positive return on investment (ROI) of 5-10x what they invest. This ROI comes from improvements in perceived company support, reduced stress, productivity, morale, reduced turnover, reduced WorkCover claims and reduced absenteeism.

An EAP can also be an important steppingstone for businesses to build a culture of wellness. As a team starts to talk about wellbeing more openly, individuals are more likely to reach out for help before they reach a crisis point. It also helps to reduce the overall stigma of asking for help as EAP counselling can be viewed in a similar way to getting a physical checkup from your GP. They are also more likely to stay with the company, as they are able to work through any issues they have regardless of whether they are workplace related.

Top 5 ways to encourage usage of an EAP

While EAP is an important step to making your workplace more proactive and supportive of employees, often the stigma surrounding mental health can prevent people from accessing the service. Traditional EAP typically has a usage of around 3-4%, whereas more proactive EAP such as Uprise [link] finds an average usage of 12%. This rate increases within smaller companies with the top 10% of Uprise clients achieving usage between 30-90%!

Read on to learn more about how you can increase uptake, and support the health of your employees below:

Leadership support and manager awareness

When promoting any wellbeing initiative within your business, it is vital to show that leadership and management wholly support the program. Wellbeing and stigma are largely based on the culture from the top down. It is important for leaders to also follow the program that they are sharing with their team to show that they authentically believe in the service. It can be helpful for leaders to film a short testimonial speaking about their experience so that employees can see positive role modelling and sharing from those in the business that they look up to.

In addition to leadership sharing their support, managers also play an important role in promoting the service to their teams. Managers are, by nature of their role, in close contact with employees, and it is likely that they may notice signs that someone is struggling. It can be very difficult for managers to know what to look for, as well as what to say or do if an employee confides in them. At Uprise, we encourage managers to use the EAP and speak to coaches about this, so that they can learn the best practice for their particular situation from a health professional. Plus, managers must take care of themselves if they are to be able to take care of their team.

Sending out regular wellbeing checks

It is common for businesses to send out pulse surveys to gage the sentiment inside their teams. Some EAPs have specific pulse surveys known as ‘Wellbeing Checks’ that measure an employee’s emotional wellbeing. These checks are completely confidential and individual results are never shared with anyone from the business.

However, leaders will receive a report on aggregate wellbeing within the business. This outlines the levels of wellbeing risk, as well as the main stressors that are impacting an employee’s ability to work effectively. These results are invaluable for leaders to understand how employees are coping, as well as any work-related stressors that could be better managed to prevent stress and mental health from worsening over time.

Uprise provides wellbeing checks with an additional feature known as ‘Risk Callbacks’. When an employee scores in the high-risk level, an Uprise psychologist will reach out to them via phone to check in and see if there is any way that we can connect them to support. This feature allows a more proactive approach where we make it as easy as possible for someone who is struggling to take the next step towards feeling better.

Build a culture of support to reduce stigma

Alongside offering counselling support, businesses can also begin talking about wellbeing within team meetings to reduce stigma. Many businesses will have a Wellbeing Wednesday meeting where they find an activity that benefits the wellbeing of their team. This is unique for every business!

A good place to start can be by directly asking employees what they would like to do in a meeting that is not work related. Perhaps they want to share more about their hobbies outside of work, play an online game or join a webinar as a team on a topic related to wellbeing. The most important thing is that the team is given the space and time to participate in initiatives that are being encouraged by leadership.

Uprise created a Positive Psychology Team Activities Booklet that can be run by a manager to promote the science of happiness at work. Download the booklet here.

Develop a wellbeing strategy

After you have found a few different initiatives that have worked, or haven’t, with your team the next step is to develop an overarching wellbeing strategy to tie it all together. A wellbeing strategy gives a broader purpose to what you are doing and uses measurements to determine whether they are successful. Download this Wellbeing Strategy template to get started.

The most successful wellbeing strategy incorporates the company strategy and purpose as a whole. Many companies will follow the 5 pillars of wellbeing framework.

Consistency and follow-up

Lastly, collecting feedback on your initiatives and strategy is one of the best ways to guide your way forward. While you may have some initial success, when it comes to wellbeing it is dynamic and will change over time based on what is happening within the company and the world. Ensure you are monitoring your success metrics and iterating your initiatives to best fit your people.