Legal responsibility and work-related stress
All business owners have an obligation under work health and safety legislation to take reasonable steps to minimise work-related stress experienced by staff. Common causes of work-related stress include:
Important steps to take
Before we explore what Employee Assistance Programs are about, I feel it’s essential to mention these simple low-cost steps that you can take now, starting with assessing the workplace you provide to your staff.
Ask yourself and your staff a few questions to get a better idea of how people are going, rank the issues uncovered by importance to improving mental health and well-being, and develop an action plan. Use these examples to help you along the way:
How do your staff greet each other when they arrive each day?
It might be a good idea to introduce a policy where it is compulsory for every employee to greet each other when arriving to work, and similar when leaving.
Are they respectful and happy to help each other out?
Lead by example and promote a workplace culture where people are comfortable asking for help.
Have regular one-to-one meetings
Find out what your employees value about their work, what do they find challenging and what ideas do they have for improvements. Every business is different, so the frequency and duration can vary, but it’s important to keep this up on a regular basis.
Ensure each staff member has a position description
This should accurately reflect their roles and responsibilities, and be updated as needed.
Offer flexible working arrangements
If possible, be flexible with start and finishing times, and consider offering working from home arrangements. This will help create a better work-life balance for your employees.
Encourage staff to take regular breaks
Lead by example by taking a proper lunch break away from your desk or work.
Spend time together as a team for non-work reasons
This could be in the form of a morning tea or a BBQ out of work hours. Many businesses have a social club where every staff member contributes a small amount from each pay towards taking part in events such as happy hours, group lunches or sporting events.
Celebrate milestones and successes
Display a list of employees’ birthdays and work anniversaries where everyone can access them, and start a tradition in the form of a morning tea. Acknowledge employees’ achievements, big or small.
Thank staff regularly for their contributions
They will be more motivated if they feel that the work they do is valued.
Support staff with mental health issues:
Mental health workplace resources organisation Heads Up has put together a handy guide of ‘Ten things you can do to make your workplace mentally healthy – tips for small businesses’. Besides offering simple steps to follow, it also provides links to great resources.
You can download this guide from the button below or go to the website.
We will now look at a specific type of support program that you can set up in addition to the action plan above, as sometimes there are issues that employees don’t feel comfortable discussing at work or with anyone else. These issues, if not dealt with, can have a significant impact on staff work performance.
Employee Assistance Programs
Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are a way for businesses to support their employees by promoting personal well-being and quality of relationships in the workplace. It does this by offering access to counselling sessions for employees and their immediate family. These sessions are fully confidential.
EAPs are designed to assist personnel to better deal with personal, family and work-related concerns which may impact on their work life and job performance. Given productivity and profitability is known to be impacted by employee well-being, and mental health issues cost Australian businesses more than $10 billion per annum, an EAP could provide your business with a way to look after your most valuable asset – your employees - while improving your bottom line.
Research has found that the use of EAP corporate counselling services can have a positive impact on five key areas:
The good news is that EAPs are fully tax deductible through WH&S and HR initiatives, so reach out to EAP providers in your area and stay tuned to our newsletter for a future article expanding on this topic.