Counselling services can be a vital tool for both employers and employees in the battle against mental ill-health. Research shows that 41% of organisations say poor mental health (such as anxiety and depression) increased over the course of 20161 while stress, depression and anxiety accounted for 40% of all work-related illness in 2016-20172.
There are many ways employers and line managers can help support colleagues in their mental health. Here are a few useful steps:
1. Be prepared
Ahead of meeting your employee, you need to find a private place, away from the rest of the company - avoid the glass-walled meeting room. Allow plenty of time so you’re not rushing off straight afterwards. For remote workers, it can be harder to spot. Keep an eye on phone or email manner for any changes and organised FaceTime or Skype catch-ups are essential.
2. Identify resources
Immediate support or longer-term management may be needed. For the former, consider mental health first aid (MHFA) resources, GP support, family/friends or a Community Mental Health team.
For the latter, look at an agreed communication schedule, possible NHS support or an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). Whichever is needed, a Wellness Action Plan can provide that proactive support. You can find a template for one here.
3. Agree support
Agree what the change to working practices will be. Then, within the business, decide three things – the support, responsible for overseeing a change and review plans.
The session wraps up with a look at some of the resources available and how to make them better known throughout your business. You may wish to look at adding counselling as an employee benefit.
Over the years, various studies have looked to answer the question of the efficacy of workplace counselling – both for employee and the financial health of the business. A 2010 study by Professor John McLeod, for example, found that workplace counselling had reduced sickness absence rates by as much as 50%3.
Two years later, a Cambridge University study found that just a few sessions of counselling had increased staff wellbeing by more than 10 points on the Warwick and Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale (WEMWBS) – an index used by mental health professionals4. Similarly, findings from a study of 28,000 people by the UK EAP Association showed that 70% of EAP clients are demonstrably shown to recover or improve following their counselling intervention5.
What you can do
One of the difficulties in supporting good workplace mental health is the range of potential triggers you may be required to cover. It could be stress related to the work itself, or it could be caused by issues at home. The employee may have legal issues hanging over their head, family troubles, or difficulties with money. Or have an indefinable sense of feeling down with no clear, direct cause.
Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) can offer information and practical support on issues such as work, family, relationships, money and health. Employees with Income Protection are also entitled to face-to-face counselling sessions or online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Sessions can start within days of a referral – compared with a possible waiting time of up to 18 weeks on the NHS6.
1 CIPD. (2016). Employee Outlook report, p2
3 Personnel Today. (2015). How workplace counselling helps employees and employers
4 Cambridge University. (2012). Feeling better for longer
5 EAPA. (2012). The effectiveness of EAP counselling interventions
6 NHS (2016). A guide to mental health services in England