Employers and employees alike both face a challenging question at present – whether there should be a general return to the office.
Every business will come to its own decision, hopefully through liaison with employees and every employee will naturally have their own view on the safety, or otherwise, of returning.
We certainly don’t want to suggest anyone should follow any particular approach – there is no singular best approach that will work for all.
What is almost certain is that in any workplace where a return to the office is expected, there will be some employees who do not back the decision. This may be quiet discontent, it might be outright complaint and it could also be a cause of fear and worry.
The potential for problems is clear, there could be a schism between employer and employee, one that is potentially difficult to resolve.
Consultations should be held, concerns listened to and adaptability allowed where practical. That, though, still might not be enough. How can a more fundamental disagreement be talked through?
An employee assistance programme could potentially be of huge benefit. It would be naive to suggest that this EAP could resolve all issues, but it can at least grant employees access to confidential advice and counselling.
An Employee Assistance Programme is a service provided by the employer but it is independent of the employer; it provides pastoral care but without being a snooping service that reports back.
Any employee can use the service, contacting an advisor to talk about and get help for any issue that is of concern and potentially impacting on their performance at work.
Common issues covered are addictions, marriage trouble and divorce and also health concerns, including mental health problems. The impact of returning to work following a global pandemic is a new one for EAP advisors, but they still have the skills to be empathetic and offer impartial advice.
An employer might wonder why an EAP is worth the investment.
The tangible benefit is that providing this service enables employees to raise concerns in a confidential way. It is often the case that dealing with problems and concerns in this way can limit their negative impact and this in turn can reduce time off work and also help the employee maintain productivity.
Given a telephone only service costs less than £3 at the time of writing and a full EAP service less than £10, it is clear that the potential benefit can far outweigh the cost.
The benefit can also help to reduce the chances of tribunals and litigation, there is an independent, impartial service in place, set-up by the employer to help find resolution and to help employees with concerns and problems. This clearly demonstrates that the employer takes their duty and their need for pastoral care seriously.
In times when increasing numbers are working remotely, this service could become more important. Without the dynamic of the office, there may be fewer opportunities for informal conversations, or even chance meetings. Gone will be those informal chats in the kitchen – the ‘and how are you doing’ being a chance to perhaps mention a concern.
Contacting someone becomes more formal, there is a reason for getting in touch via email, call or other, rather than it being a chance meeting. An employee may not want to make this more formal communication to chat about something concerning them and so the issue could fester.
In this situation, access to the EAP may be beneficial; it certainly helps to show that the business or organisation cares.
The message would be ‘We know these are challenging times, you can always talk to us but, if you want to speak to a truly impartial third party in confidence, we also have provided access to a resource…’
An EAP is just one of many workplace benefits, but it could be one of the most important right now.
At Enjoy Benefits, we have great experience in helping companies of all sizes introduce benefits that are suitable for their workplace.
Benefits are easy to set ups and ongoing administration is then run through a hub, this allowing employees to manage their own benefits while the employer can see which benefits are proving popular and what level of take-up each has had.
If you would like an obligation free chat to discuss which benefits might work for your business and your employees, please contact us by calling 0800 088 7315 or using our Contact Form.