Supporting the mental wellbeing of line managers

Written by Vicky Mulchinock on . Posted in News

Supporting the mental wellbeing of line managers

Research from the Chartered Institute of Management shows that the average manager puts in an extra 7.5 hours a week, equating to 44 more working days a year. That effectively cancels out holiday allowance and such demands mean that one in 10 managers have reported taking sick leave for stress and mental health issues over the last year.

When it comes to addressing mental health at work much has been written about the importance of mental health first aid training for line managers and their role in promoting support services, such as EAPs, to employees. And while this is vitally important in creating a culture of acceptance around mental health, we must also ensure that the line managers themselves, are not overlooked.

“Managers are often under pressure to be ‘always on’, checking and responding to emails and calls out of hours or when on holiday and it is often this digital presenteeism that negatively impacts work-life balance and increases stress levels in managers,” said Neil Mountford, EAPA chair.

“Failure to address the pressures and concerns facing managers can also lead to bad management which in turn creates additional stress and poor mental wellbeing both for the manager and potentially those in their teams. We also know that managers are often the most reluctant group to seek support for issues that are affecting them and that seeking help can be viewed as a sign of ‘weakness’ or worry that they may be judged and unable to cope.

“Changing the organisational culture to be more supportive of mental health should therefore also involve changing manager attitudes and behaviours and encouraging them to take action to address issues affecting their own mental wellbeing. EAPs, can be an important resource for managers.  Most will offer a Manager Consultation service which provides the opportunity for managers to discuss issues they are struggling with in a confidential setting and an approach that is generally practical and pragmatic.

“To encourage more effective use of these types of services, we urge employers to promote EAPs as a useful professional and personal development tool for managers, rather than simply a safety net for those who can’t cope,” said Neil.

Mind finds employees staying silent on poor mental health

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Mind finds employees staying silent on poor mental health

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is focusing on the way stress impacts our lives. As part of this, a major new survey from Mind, of almost 44,000 employees, has found that almost half (48 per cent) had experienced poor mental health, such as stress, low mood, and anxiety, while working at their current organisation. Of those respondents, only half chose to tell their employer about their difficulties (10,554).

The data was gathered from the 74 organisations that took part in Mind’s latest Workplace Wellbeing Index, a benchmark of best policy and practice which celebrates the work employers are doing to promote and support positive mental health. These new findings also show:

  • More than eight in ten people (84 per cent) would continue to go to work when experiencing poor mental health while only just over half (58 per cent) would go to work when experiencing poor physical health
  • Only two fifths (42 per cent) of all employees surveyed felt their manager would be able to spot the signs they were struggling with poor mental health
  • A fifth (21 per cent) of all respondents feel that their current workload is unmanageable

Employers taking part in Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index are aiming to create a culture where staff feel able to talk openly about their mental health. Encouragingly this year two thirds (61 per cent) of employers taking part in the Index intend to increase spend on workplace wellbeing activities to create a more positive and open culture.

“This latest survey from Mind shows that there is still a lot of work to be done to destigmatise mental health in the workplace. Crucially, employers need to create workplace wellbeing strategies that treat mental health in the same way as physical health and work harder to foster a culture of acceptance so that employees are not anxious or intimidated about discussing mental health,” said EAPA chair, Neil Mountford.

“Employers need to make better use of the positive mental health support services available, such as EAPs, which can help tackle these high levels of stress,” said Neil. “We know from our members that EAPs are successfully helping employees. Recent figures from the LifeWorks EAP, for example, show that they have delivered mental health improvements in 92% of cases. So we urge employers to engage with their EAP providers to better understand how they can be used to support their mental health strategy and how they can work together on tailored communications, training and events to help raise awareness.”

More information about Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index can be found at

Removing the taboo around mental health at Lloyds

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Removing the taboo around mental health at Lloyds

Earlier this week, Lloyd’s CEO, António Horta-Osório wrote for The Guardian about mental health and attitudes to it the workplace. Since taking a leave of absence to deal with serious insomnia shortly after joining the bank in 2011, António Horta-Osório has spoken openly and frankly about his challenges with mental health. At that time he spent nine days at the Priory clinic to prevent a nervous breakdown after his insomnia reached a tipping point. With the support of his family and employers, he was able to make a full recovery. Not only did he return to work, but he led Lloyds to become the first bank rescued by the government fully to repay taxpayers’ money.

This is not such an unusual scenario. People take time out to recover from mental illness and often people with mental health issues return to work stronger and more successful. But what sets António Horta-Osório apart is that he took the decision to go public about his illness and his recovery. While progress has been made in confronting the stigma of mental health in the workplace, it remains rare for a senior business executive to share their experience and admit vulnerability in this way.

In this latest article, he shows the importance of leading by example and in creating a workplace culture and mindset where mental illness is perceived in the same way as physical illness. He talks about how removing the taboo around mental health at Lloyd’s has had powerful results, helping both staff – and the business – to thrive. Highlighting the decline in UK productivity since 2007, he points out that: “While several economic factors have caused this decline it is time to acknowledge a less visible yet more pervasive factor: mental health and attitudes in the workplace. It is clear to me that the most important change needed is one of mindset. As with our physical health, all of us can experience periods of mental ill health when immediate treatment is needed, or we run the risk of developing long-term conditions that will need continuing support. With a culture of adequate support and sufficient time off, an employee can return to work with confidence and without embarrassment.”

Using an anonymous example of one of Lloyd’s managers, he talks about how the employee used their employee assistance programme helpline to provide him with advice on coping with anxiety, mindfulness and dealing with self-control and that with the help of professionals and the knowledge that he is fully supported by his manager and his team, the employee is now genuinely excelling his role. He explains how creating a positive culture to inspire open conversations is key and that Lloyds takes an approach that focuses on the spectrum of mental health, from everyday wellbeing through to clinically diagnosed conditions, looking at prevention as well as support. “What has been most powerful for many colleagues has been the simple step of enabling people to talk openly about their experiences without fear of judgement. Changing the corporate mindset on mental health, is the most fundament step towards changing things for the better.”

“This is a great example of a senior leader making this a key issue, working to embed mental health within the values of the organisation and creating a culture that encourages employees to speak out about their personal experiences and ask for support,” said Neil Mountford, chair of EAPA UK. “It also shows the value and importance of EAPs in forming part of a holistic approach to employee wellbeing that also included physical health and wellbeing initiatives.”

You can read the full article here.

EAPs can help support mental health among middle managers

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EAPs can help support mental health among middle managers

Last week, the CIPD launched the UK Working Lives survey, the first comprehensive measure of job quality in the UK. Combining previous research on the factors that affect job quality with a 6,000 sample survey, representative of the whole UK workforce, the results show that while overall headline satisfaction with work and jobs is reasonable, there are significant numbers who feel differently, and importantly some major systemic issues with overwork, stress and a lack of training and development.

It reports that while two-thirds of workers (64%) are satisfied with their job overall, one in four workers (25%) feel their job negatively affects their mental health, while nearly a third (30%) say their workload is too much. In particular, the survey highlights a concerning trend among workers in middle management, indicating that they have too much on their plate, a factor which is having a detrimental effect on their wellbeing. Among its recommendations, the CIPD advises employers address cultures of presenteeism, place a greater focus on wellbeing and encourage more flexible working.

“While many organisations already have an EAP in place to support the wellbeing of their employees, there appears to be a lack of awareness around the coaching and guidance element of many EAP programmes which are there to support line managers specifically,” said Neil Mountford, chair of the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association. “We urge employers to talk to their EAP provider about these services and to work together to more actively promote the training and coaching services available to line managers which can help them manage their day-to-day pressures more effectively.”

You can ready the CIPD’s UK Working Lives Survey here.


Promoting EAPs during National Stress Awareness month

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Promoting EAPs during National Stress Awareness Month

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 12.5 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17. During the same period, more than 500,000 workers stated that they were suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety. GPs also report that symptoms of stress are on the increase in the UK, with the majority of GPs (85%) reporting a rise in the number of patients with symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression in the last five years according to a survey by Royal London.

While the majority of work-related stress is attributed to workload, around 1 in 7 people say it is due to lack of support. Yet we know that Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) are the most popular wellbeing initiative provided by employers in the UK. While awareness is growing slowly, a gap still exists between awareness and the services already being provided by organisations to support mental health issues. “The issue here is that while some employees are aware their organisation has an EAP, they don’t necessarily know what it means and how it can help,” says Neil Mountford, chair of the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association.

“Hosting regular EAP awareness and mental health awareness sessions can help give employees a better understanding of mental health , as well as an awareness of the services and support available to them. Improving knowledge of how EAPs can help will also increase usage of the service. If there are concerns around confidentiality of the EAP, it is vital to communicate that any discussions are private and confidential and will not be shared with their employer. It also helps if managers have a better understanding of the EAP and other support services available so that they can talk to employees about these.

“In order for an EAP to deliver significant benefit and value, employers need to work with their providers to raise awareness and provide education for employees. Organisations that do this will see the long term benefits of a successful EAP and the positive impact on employee wellbeing and organisation through improved productivity and fewer days lost to mental ill health. Line manager education and coaching on how best to manage mental health issues is also a key part of the equation and while EAPs have the capability, expertise and capacity to do this, this is less well known and utilised by employers.

“If take-up of your EAP is low, consider creating events or communications to tie in with key events on the wellbeing calendar and help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. Ultimately, it is in the interest of all EAP providers to raise awareness of the issue of mental health at work and the role we can play in eradicating the problem and April’s National Stress Awareness Month could be the perfect place to start.”

EAPA urges employers to use their EAPs more effectively

Written by Vicky Mulchinock on . Posted in News

EAPA urges employers to use their EAPs more effectively

A recent BUPA survey has reported that mental health issues are now a larger concern than physical ailments for many UK companies and that businesses are observing higher rates of mental illness compared to five years ago.

“This latest report confirms that if organisations want to better support their employees and truly embed a positive approach to workplace wellbeing, they need to treat mental health in the same way as they do physical health. And while we are certainly seeing the government and industry making strides to create this parity of vision, there is still some way to go,” said Neil Mountford, chair of the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association.

The survey found while around 743,000 UK employees took long-term absences for mental health reasons within the past year, and that it was the main reason that employees did not go to work, more than half of the companies surveyed said that they did not know how to support employees with the challenge. However research shows that EAPs are the most popular workplace wellbeing initiative offered with more than 14 million employees having access to an EAP via their employer (Source: The Work Foundation, Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs): Supporting good work for UK employers?).

“While many employees have an EAP they are simply not being utilised effectively,” said Neil. “EAPA UK urges employers to engage with their EAP providers to better understand how EAPs can be used to support their mental health strategy. We know from our members that EAPs are successfully helping employees. Recent figures from the LifeWorks EAP service centre, for example, show that they have delivered mental health improvements in 92% of cases. We also know that EAPs are good for business by the number of employers who renew their EAP year on year and increasingly we are seeing EAPs evolving to offer apps which allow employees to have access to tools, information and support via their smartphone.

“To increase their effectiveness, employers (and their employees) need to challenge traditional perceptions of EAPs, moving the focus to the preventative role that they can play, rather than seeing an EAP as a last resort when an employee reaches crisis point. Just as mental health has become a top priority for businesses, so too should the value of their EAP in helping to better manage workplace wellbeing,” said Neil.

Protecture webinar on GDPR

Written by Vicky Mulchinock on . Posted in Events, News

GPDR webinar

This is advance notice that EAPA and Protecture shall be running a webinar on one of the issues which concerns us all at present,  GDPR.  The date is 11 April at 10.00 am

Information on this will be sent out in the next few days, but the purpose of this note is to ensure that you receive this advance notice for your diaries.

The session will be run by Gary Shipsey of Protecture.  This organisation is a specialist consultancy rather than a legal firm and provides strategic advice on the objectives behind and the pitfalls of Data Protection.  His focus is the understanding of what is important for users and holders of sensitive information.

Details of the webinar and how to join will be sent out shortly.  The webinar will be hosted by Protecture.  I am not sure how many will be permitted to join at this stage: clearly we are trying to maximise numbers, but please be prepared to book promptly to secure your place.

Health and Wellbeing@Work 2018

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Health and Wellbeing@Work 2018

EAPA was again delighted to be a partner of this year’s Health & Wellbeing@Work conference at the NEC in Birmingham.

“This is the seventh year that EAPA has participated in the conference, both as an exhibitor and contributor to the speaker programme and we would like to thank Sterling Events for another successful conference and for its continuing support of EAPA’s involvement. We were delighted to receive so many visitors and so much interest in the work of the Association at the event with this year being particularly significant as it saw the launch of the new EAP Return on Investment tool on the EAPA website,” said Neil Mountford, Chair of EAPA UK.

As in previous years, the EAPA AGM was held during the conference and EAPA was delighted to welcome Professor Stephen Bevan from the Institute of Employment Studies as the guest speaker.  EAPA commissioned the IES last year to develop the ROI tool and the AGM provided Professor Bevan with the opportunity to discuss the approach he has taken to the development of the algorithm that sits behind the tool. During his presentation he also explained the assumptions made and provided some practical demonstrations based on a number of different scenarios. “There was considerable interest from the attendees with a good discussion around how we can continue to refine and develop the EAP ROI tool.  Over time, the aim is to use the data captured to develop a UK benchmark of EAP providers to help employers make more informed judgements of EAP value and quality as well as form the basis for further research and development,” said Neil.

EAPA was also delighted to make two membership awards at the AGM, to Andrew Kinder and Stephen Bevan, recognising the outstanding contribution each has made to furthering and promoting the interests of EAPs. Andrew Kinder was awarded Emeritus Member  and Stephen was made an Honorary Member.

New ROI tool for EAPs

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New ROI tool for EAPs

Two years ago, EAPA UK commissioned The Work Foundation to investigate the use, impact and ROI of EAPs. This first phase of research found that while Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) are among the most commonly used wellbeing interventions in the UK, very few providers or their clients are able to collect systematic evaluation data beyond take-up or utilisation statistics and satisfaction surveys. More detailed findings and discussion of the study conducted by The Work Foundation is available in the full report, Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs): Supporting good work for UK employers?

The research found that most EAPs, at minimum, covered their costs but that more work could be conducted to identify the main components of both costs and benefits at employer level. Based on these recommendations, EAPA UK funded further research, carried out by Professor Stephen Bevan at the Institute of Employment Studies (IES), to design, test and develop an algorithm that would enable employers and EAP providers to measure return on investment.

“We are looking forward to unveiling the UK’s first ROI tool for EAPs at our AGM next Tuesday 6 March at the Health and Wellbeing at Work event at the NEC. For the first time EAP providers and employers will be able to demonstrate the value of their EAPs, using the results to better inform their health and wellbeing strategy and deliver even greater value to employees. Importantly, over time, this ROI tool will also provide a UK benchmark of EAP providers to help employers make more informed judgements of EAP value and quality,” said EAPA UK Chair, Neil Mountford.

Watch this space for more information about the ROI tool which will be made available on our website very soon.

Creating a culture of acceptance around mental health at work

Written by Vicky Mulchinock on . Posted in News

Creating a culture of acceptance around mental health at work

According to the Thriving at Work report, an independent review commissioned by the government last year into how employers can support the mental health of their employees, the annual cost of poor mental health to employers is estimated at between £33 billion and £44 billion. Yet despite these huge costs, there continues to be a negative stigma attached to mental health within our society and in our workplaces.

A recent article in The Metro reports on the experiences of five people who told their employer about their mental illness. The good news is that some of these people had really positive experiences with their line managers working with them to address and manage their illness so they could thrive at work. For others, their experience highlights how poorly mental health continues to be managed in the workplace.

“One of the biggest barriers to improving the culture of acceptance around mental ill health is that line managers lack the training, skills and confidence to have the right conversations and effectively support others. As a society we need to work harder to remove this negative stigma and in the workplace, employers can help by ensuring that line managers are properly trained and better equipped to deal with difficult and challenging situations. Over the last 12-18 months, we’ve seen an increase in the number of trained mental first aiders and mental health champions in the workplace as employers recognise the need for action. While this is a welcome step forward, part of the issue is that simply investing in this type of training is not enough. Developing mental first aid skills is a process that needs to evolve over time and employers need to make sure their line managers have the right post training support and guidance in place to ensure they get it right. This is an area that EAPs have particular expertise in and we urge employers to talk to their EAP provider about how they can work together to provide ongoing coaching for line managers around mental ill health ,” said Andrew Kinder, Executive Member of EAPA UK.

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