Why Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a must for every organization today?
Today, ‘stress’ has become a common term used across the board, by all age groups. I have noticed kids as old as 5-6 years of age using the word stress. They may not understand the actual meaning of all that the word may indicate; but, the context in which they use it seems apt. The most common form of stress is a mix of anxiety (tension, nerves) and depression (feeling flat/ dull, sad). It often comes with sleep problems, loss of confidence, loss of self-esteem, feelings of panic and anger/irritation. Anxiety and depression are, for most of us, two sides of the same coin as most of us have bits of each.
The impact of stress today at the workplace is immense and has started catching the attention of C-Suite executives as well as HR Heads. A recent study by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) talked about the loss of productivity that the companies face due to stress-related issues, which in turn has a negative impact on the financial health of the organization. According to this study, a banking/ finance company, with an average employee base of 500, takes a hit of about Rs 100 crores in productivity due to stress-related issues. For IT/ITES companies with an average of 10,000 employees, the loss incurred is about Rs. 50 crores and for the Travel & Hospitality industry it is just over Rs. 10 crores for an average of 2000 employees.
In the last 2-3 decades, India has seen significant growth in the private sector, with a lot of multinational companies setting up operations in India. Along with the growth in the job market came many stress-related challenges at the workplace. Until now, stress in workplace has not been considered a major issue by a lot of employers; however, recent studies like the one quoted above are slowly grabbing the attention of companies and propelling them to act on these issues that have been considered stigmatic topics in the past. Most organizations have started recognizing the financial and human costs of poor employee-health which primarily stems from mental health issues. Onsite Gyms, Yoga classes, subsidized Gym memberships, doctors on-site, tying up with hospitals for annual health checks, in-house weight loss programs, health and wellness committees are just some of the things they are doing to help employees stay physically and mentally healthy.
Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which started off in North America to primarily focus on Alcohol and Substance abuse in the manufacturing industries back in the sixties and seventies has now entered every sector with a focus in Mental Health.
HR Managers who viewed EAP as a “check in the box” are now partnering with EAP vendors and discussing how to create awareness and improve on the implementation of such programs. In the last decade alone, several organizations in India have started providing EAP benefits to their employees; especially, the multinational ones, gradually increasing such penetration into other Indian organizations including the multitude of start-ups.
Traditional EAP providers offer phone counseling and in-person counseling services, which is viewed as ‘reactive’ in today’s EAP world. What would be a better approach is being ‘proactive’ and this can and must be done by creating awareness among the employees, removing the taboo and stigma around this space and integrating more preventive measures thereby creating opportunities for employees to look at their mental health in the same breath as physical health. One of the most important aspects is not to separate Mental health from Physical or Social health. All three of them are inter-connected and what affects one affects the others. World Health Organization (WHO), defines health as a "State of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
EAPs are slowly becoming part of the mainstream benefits offered by employers today. In addition to this, in August 2018, the Insurance regulator IRDAI issued a circular to all the Insurers to cover Mental Illness. The Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 has made it mandatory to provide “medical insurance for treatment of mental illness on the same basis as is available for treatment of physical illness”. This is just the beginning of a mental health revolution in India, and the timing is perfect given we are one of the fastest growing economies and soon India will be home to the largest workforce globally. Isn’t it time we started taking care of our human resources?
About the Author:
Saravanan Neel is a Mindfulness practitioner and coach, Certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) life-coach and a former Human Resources Professional, on a journey to improve well-being and quality of life for millions of people across the globe. If you are interested in learning more about EAP, please feel free to contact at firstname.lastname@example.org