145% spike in counselling needs as lockdown eases
Employers may think that the easing of lockdown will result in an improvement in mental health, but figures released today by Towergate Health & Protection suggest that employees may be in greater need of support than ever.
Figures from one of our leading employee assistance programme (EAP) providers show a pronounced increase in utilisation as lockdown eases, compared with figures from the first and most strict lockdown. During March 2021, counselling calls increased by 145% over the figures from March 2020, with numbers exceeding the peak previously seen in July 2020.
The anxiety of returning to work
It would be understandable for employers to think that the peak time for stress would have been in March 2020, when the country was in the midst of the most severe lockdown. However, the figures show that utilisation of counselling provision has increased significantly as things have begun to open up again. There may be many reasons for this, including the anxiety of returning to work and the stresses of resuming the rush and tumult of everyday life.
By far the majority of calls for counselling services have been regarding anxiety, followed by low mood, then depression. The increase in service use is evident across both traditional access points via the telephone, and online.
During these uncertain times, EAP support for employees can prove invaluable. Offered as an integral part of many existing employee benefits, such as income protection and life assurance, or as a standalone, EAPs can offer a great range of employee support. The programme will typically include assessment, short-term counselling and referral services for employees and their immediate family, wherever they are in the world. The provision is intended to help employees deal with personal problems that may adversely affect their health and wellbeing and work performance.
Training employees to cope
The need for employee support is huge. This leading EAP provider received over 33,000 calls, delivered 23,000 structured therapy sessions and received over 11,000 hits on its online portal in April 2021. Without a programme in place to support employees via EAPs and other wellbeing benefits, employers can be left to pick up the pieces.
EAPs are there for immediate assistance, to provide support when it is needed. They also help employees to build foundations to better manage their own wellbeing, such as with virtual training sessions on topics such as stress management and coping with change. So they can help build mental resilience too, and this can not only support the mental health of each individual but of those around them too.
As a population, we have had to cope with a great deal over the last year or so. It should perhaps not be surprising that this has had a knock-on effect. We have been conditioned to become socially distant, and the return to busy offices, a hectic commute, and a gear-change in life in general are all likely to bring with them stress and anxiety. The good news is, there’s a lot that employers can do to make sure these problems do not escalate and affect working life. Support is available and employers should make use of it to ensure the wellbeing of their workforce.
Brett Hill is Distribution Director of Towergate Health & Protection. Brett’s career spans 20 years, working in technical, commercial, sales & marketing and senior management roles with leading insurance companies, including AXA PPP Healthcare, Standard Life Healthcare and Unum. Brett has been responsible for charting the company’s...