Stress at the Top and the Benefits of Employee Assistance Programmes

It’s likely that in this affluent and flourishing country of ours that many of us will know someone who has risen to dizzy heights in the business world or professions, we might even be one of those high achievers our selves. If however we observe this elite world from the outside we may feel it’s straightforward to spot the outward trappings and signs of the archetypical successful person as we view the expensive car, nice house and exotic holidays of that person.

However this is the external view that is presented to the world and can deceive us into believing that this high flying world is one that is without problems and is to be envied or desired. We watch but maybe we don’t really see.

What is the reality of success and what does it bring? Well foremost is the fact that hardly any-one is safe in their job these days. This is in stark contrast to bygone years when one might expect to be settled in a position until the day of the clock presentation and the company pension. In recent times we have witnessed long established and well respected companies and financial institutions crumble and fall, throwing employees on to the unemployment rubble pile.

Although not confined to high achievers, there are many aspects of employment that when added to possible personal issues can bring anxiety and stress to the employee.

These can include:

  • Colleague tensions and uncertainties
  • Communication difficulties
  • Technical frustrations
  • The daily commute and travel
  • Sales target expectations
  • Increased sales areas
  • Restructuring and relocating

To help their employees cope with the worries and concerns that may be impacting on and affecting their ability to do their jobs, organisations are increasingly providing `Employee Assistance Programmes` (EAP) which centres around the employee being provided with personal counselling support.

In the United States, Employee Assistance Programmes have been used for some time where the value of looking after the employee as a whole has been recognized and appreciated in the workplace. Now the concept has crossed the Atlantic and is gaining popularity here in the UK where we see employers offering EAPs in addition to the usual benefits package.

Research has shown that a surprisingly large number of employees in the UK now have support from these schemes and it’s easy to see the benefits of an EAP scheme within a company for employees and employers alike with staff having support from an independent counsellor over issues such as stress, bereavements, relationship upsets and addictions. However, it’s important to keep in mind that EAP counsellors have in effect two clients – the employee themselves and the employer and have an equal duty to both.

In the world of psychotherapy we see some counsellors specialising in this type of work while others integrate it into their practice alongside their general client work. Here at my practice, I have experience of Employee Assistance Programmes and often get approached by companies wishing to acquire support for an employee.

These arrangements run very smoothly with the company stepping back from the proceedings and the client engaging in the process, knowing that the financial side of things is taken care of for them. Of course the resources of any company are not endless and it’s important to liaise regularly to keep the employer informed about the number of sessions that may be required.

Here a delicate balancing act takes place of care for the client and the maintenance of confidentiality while fulfilling one’s obligations to the company.

In conclusion, Employee Assistance Programmes appear to be a positive and helpful tool in company/staff relationships and generally works well for the interests of both. I would encourage any firms that have not yet put in place such a scheme to do so and likewise any employee who is suffering anxiety which impacts on their working life to seek support wherever it is available.

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