EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM: WELLNESS POST COVID 19
By Letoo James
May is a labour and mental health awareness month. Labour Day is set aside to celebrate workers contribution to society while at the same time reflecting on the progress made in advancing their welfare. This reflection is particularly important this year owing to the negative impact occasioned by Covid 19 for the last one year. Since WHO declared it a pandemic in March of last year, the army of workers globally responded to contain the crisis. Healthcare workers led in the frontlines in treating the infected while many others in critical service sectors facilitated our daily lives despite the unprecedented interruptions. They did so with compassion, ingenuity and in heroic fashion. We are in a relatively better place today because of them.
Collectively, Covid 19 and the subsequent containment measures have caused human suffering on a scale never seen before. People have had to make many drastic adjustments in their lives. Some experienced the effects of Covid 19 related trauma immediately while others will take time to feel the full impact. This ongoing stress is complicated by the fact that nobody knows when it will end if at all it will. Available statistics show that cases of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, trauma, adjustment disorder, violence and suicide have gone up. The prevalence among workers is alarmingly high and experts agree that mental health has become a parallel pandemic. Workers now more than ever need professional psychosocial support against this overwhelming reality.
Employers need to prioritize giving their employees access to a free, confidential, workplace counselling service. Unfortunately, only few employees enjoy this vital service. This means that many have had no support mechanism at a time when they are most vulnerable. It is well known that compromised well-being among workers is associated with absenteeism, reduced concentration, work-related errors, lower interpersonal teamwork, job dissatisfaction, reduction in professional effort, poor physical health and turnover of staff. Kenyan employers have made great strides in finding solutions to addressing staff psychosocial welfare at workplaces. Though few, employers have invested in Employee Assistance Programs (EAP).
EAP is a workplace-counselling program designed to help employers deal with staff performance challenges while helping employees identify and resolve personal problems. It involves confidential professional counselling service for a range of problems including financial, family or marital, grief and loss, trauma, substance abuse, and other psychological stressors. EAP generally offers short-term and solution-oriented counselling support. In situations where staff may need long-term or specialized care they can get referrals to a provider of their preference at their own cost. There are three possible ways that employers can establish EAP in their workplaces. They can either have it provided by counselling staff from within the organization, opt to contract a vendor or have a hybrid system of the two. Experts can guide employers on the right fit for their organization depending on need, size, location and other factors. CBT-Kenya is a professional counselling company with experienced staff that helps employers, CEOs, Human Resource Managers and other team leaders develop policy and implement EAP.
In this special month for workers and mental health, labour stakeholders should go beyond advancing minimum wages and instead champion for workers to enjoy workplace psychosocial support through EAP. This Human resource strategy will go a long way in making workers happier, healthier, productive and more resilient going forward. The net effect of this is thriving organizations, stronger economy and prosperity for all.