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Employee assistance programmes "can drive wellbeing strategy"

21 September 2017

Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) are an important driver of workplace wellness strategies – but employers and providers need to rethink how they message and communicate them, MetLife Employee Benefits believes.

The organisation warns that focusing too much on the counselling aspects of EAPs creates a perception amongst employees that these are the main or only feature.  This in turn can prevent employees from engaging at the outset as, unless they feel they need counselling support at that time, they may not re-look at the other features in future.

According to MetLife a different approach, focusing on the positive aspects of physical, financial and mental wellness positions the services differently in the mind of employees, which in turn can help improve usage and therefore drive better return on investment. When counselling services are needed, MetLife believes that actual usage is below the real level of need because of a lack of trust from employees who worry that HR departments and line managers can see who is using them.  In actual fact, usage is confidential.

The company's research shows that rising uncertainty in the job market and the wider economy is increasing employees’ interest in benefits: 55% of employees now say they value their benefits compared with just 40% two years ago. The study found that 54% of employees would consider using EAPs.

Simple initiatives such as identifying ‘Wellness Champions’ among staff, involving line managers and looking at the bigger picture of wellness are also said to boost take-up.

Jo Elphick, head of marketing at MetLife UK, said: “EAPs are becoming a standard offering in UK companies but more can be done to maximise their value. We’ve seen that employees are really starting to value their benefits so we should seize the opportunity to review and enhance communications around this important benefit.”

MetLife’s data show that the impact of giving employees tools like EAPs can be significant when it comes to benefits for the employer: for every 1% rise in employees feeling in control of their finances, for example, their engagement at work rises by 19%.

Feeling cared for by their employer is also a key driver of engagement amongst employees: every 1% rise in feeling their employer cares for them delivers a 9% increase in engagement and this is even higher, at 12%, where employees feel they have a supportive manager.