Select Your Cookie Preferences

We use cookies and similar tools that are necessary to enable you to use our website, to enhance your experience, and provide our services, as detailed in our Cookie Notice. We also use these cookies to understand how customers use our services (for example, by measuring site visits) so we can make improvements.

If you agree, we'll also use cookies to complement your website experience, as described in our Cookie Notice. This may include using third party cookies for the purpose of displaying and measuring interest-based ads. Click "Customise Cookies" to decline these cookies, make more detailed choices, or learn more.

EAPs helping employees deal with return to work anxiety

Serious young businesswoman using mobile phone

With most pandemic restrictions in the UK now lifted, people are returning to the office. But after more than a year of working from home and social distancing, it's a change that is making many employees feel anxious.

In fact, while employers may think that the easing of lockdown will result in an improvement in mental health, figures from Towergate Health & Protection suggest that employees may be in greater need of support than ever.

Fortunately, there is a lot that employers can do to make sure that people's worries and concerns about this change do not escalate and affect working life -- from keeping the office clean and well ventilated, to offering continued flexible working or a gradual return to the workplace, to connecting employees with expert help outside the firm.

Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) are an employee benefit offered by many employers to support their workforce in a variety of ways. Designed to help employees deal with personal problems that might adversely impact their work performance, health and wellbeing, they often include short-term counselling, practical advice and referral services for employees and their immediate family.

Towergate reports that counselling calls to one EAP provider increased by 145% in March 2021 compared with March 2020, and exceeded the peak previously seen in July 2020.

The majority of calls for counselling services have been regarding anxiety, followed by low mood and depression.

"It would be understandable for employers to think that the peak time for stress would have been in March 2020, when the country was in the midst of the most severe lockdown," commented Brett Hill, distribution director for Towergate Health & Protection. "However, the figures show that utilisation of counselling provision has increased significantly as things have begun to open up again."

These figures back up the anecdotal evidence seen from across EAP providers, said industry body the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) UK.

"Lockdowns led to different kinds of stress for employees from the disruption, the threat of losing jobs, taking on new ways of working or being furloughed," explained EAPA UK board member Paul Roberts. "But there was also a break from routine, novelty, opportunities for home working and a better work/life balance. For some people that meant an escape from smaller worries, an easing of the usual work pressures and problems.

"The return to work period has seen a combination of ongoing concerns about job security and exposure to the virus along with a return to ordinary working life and expectations of productivity and performance."

Through EAPs, counsellors have been able to provide professional support to help employees restore a sense of control and focus on their wellbeing, Roberts added.

"Support is available and employers should make use of it to ensure the wellbeing of their workforce," Towergate's Brett Hill concluded.

Posted by Fidelius on August 31st 2021

Loading... Updating page...