Buy-in for employee wellbeing initiatives has always been hampered by a lack of hard data. Making a case for investment into mental health benefits has meant scratching around for impact on absence rates or relying on intangibles like the value for engagement and employer branding.
initiatives have come to be accepted as the 'right thing' to do, there's an
urgent need for evidence and attention to real-life figures. According to the
Government's Thriving at Work report last year, the cost of poor mental
health among employees is costing employers between £33 and £42 billion. UK
employers bear much of the burden of the costs of ill-health, chronic disease
and incapacity, and they need to start having a much better grasp of which
interventions help them mitigate against these costs. It's time that HR
professionals - and the industry - is
in a position to demonstrate the Return on Investment from an Employee
The value of EAPs
Two years ago,
the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) UK commissioned The
Work Foundation to investigate the impact of EAPs. This found that EAPs are
among the most commonly used wellbeing interventions in the UK with close to
half of the workforce (a total of almost 14 million) having access to an EAP
via their employer.
Value was found
to be delivered in many different ways to employers. 67% of HR managers use an
EAP as part of the organisation’s health and wellbeing plan; around half of HR
managers said an EAP was introduced to help reduce organisational sickness
absence and 48% to provide employees with support for particular issues such as
debt or relationship issues, 33% to improve productivity. In terms of mental
health more specifically, EAPs work with employers to mitigate organisational
risk and promote employee wellness by helping to identify and rectify unhealthy
work practices, offering educational campaigns for employees, delivering
workplace mediation and providing mental health first aid coaching and guidance
for line managers.
EAPs are also an
important resource for managers looking for support. The research found that
68% say the EAP is used by managers asking for support on how to manage
workplace issues, for management consultation (49%) and management information
and employee and organisational interventions (44%).
But at the same
time, very few providers or their employer clients have been able to collect
data in any systematic way beyond basic take-up and satisfaction surveys.
There's been evidence from a small number of relevant pieces of research: for
example, a US study that suggests a range between $4 and $10 return on a $1
investment in an EAP; work with the Australian Fire Service found that mental
health training for managers led to real impact on work-related absence and an
ROI of £9.98 for each pound spent; and from Thriving at Work: a review of
mental health and employers highlighted a significant return for employers
investing in mental health interventions, an average of £4.20 for every £1
(with a range up to £9). But, so far, nothing that would provide an accessible
tool for any employer and EAP provider to use as a standard measure.
EAPA UK has
stepped in to fund the Institute of Employment Studies (IES), to design and
develop an EAP calculator to fill this critical gap.
employers were involved in piloting the initial model for the calculator,
giving us the opportunity to assess what kinds of data were routinely recorded
and available and the areas of the organisation or staff groups where the cost
burden of absence was higher or lower. The calculator asks the employer to
input data or informed estimates of the number of employees, annual cost of the
EAP per person, absence data (days lost per employee per year, absence costs
per employee (and if this figure isn’t available a default figure from CIPD
data is used), the reduction in absence levels estimated to be attributable to
EAP use (again with a CIPD default figure if necessary); and productivity data:
the percentage of staff using the EAP in the current year, the value of a fully
productive employee and an estimate of the increase in productivity assumed to
be achieved by reducing absence and presenteeism levels.
Dr Shaun Davis, Global Director of Safety, Health, Wellbeing & Sustainability at one of the employers involved, the Royal Mail Group, said: “It is proven that work is good for you, and there are times when people might need some support to help them stay in work. Some employees face a range of health and wellbeing challenges - either mental, physical or both. Ensuring you have an EAP service available 24/7 is not only good for business, but more importantly is good for employees and the communities they live and work in. Being able to analyse health data is vital to our health and wellbeing strategy of improving the health and wellbeing of our employees through the prevention of physical and mental harm. As a global organisation we wanted to support a worthwhile initiative like the EAP calculator because of the impact and benefits of EAPs not only to employers and their employees, but also the wider communities where people live.”
delivers a results page detailing absence costs, income from productivity
gains, the cost of EAP intervention and an estimate of Return on Investment
based on a simple estimate of the additional productivity benefits gained per
£1 of intervention costs. There is also a ‘slider’ facility allowing the user
to vary the value of each input value to ask ‘what-if’ questions - for example,
to vary the estimated cost per employee of an EAP, or EAP usage rates.
HR Business Partner, MTR Crossrail said: “Wellbeing and support for employees
is a key role for the HR team and it is useful to be involved with a project
like this which highlights the benefits of the work we do. Calculating ROI is
important as this helps us to measure the real benefit of the offering
to staff and the value to the business overall. Using the calculator, we
can look at any trends within the data and then focus further wellbeing
initiatives around trying to prevent the root causes of issues requiring EAP
Promoting EAP services
value and ROI of an EAP is intrinsically linked to how well EAP services are
promoted and understood in the workplace. A recent US study revealed how this
has a significant and positive impact on overall EAP usage, with promotional
material s being the number one source of referral into the EAP.
employers to work with their EAP providers, to tap into their experience and
expertise, and create promotional plans tailored to the needs of the
organisation. This includes advising on which channels have been proven to work
most effectively and developing the messaging around EAP promotion so that it
addresses the specific priorities and concerns of their workforce. Indeed,
feedback from EAPA members shows that those employers who engage in regular EAP
promotional activity, particularly online through webinars, email promotions
and apps, can see a significant uplift in usage.
The more effort an organisation puts into promoting its EAP to drive engagement and utilisation, the better its data will be and ultimately its ROI.
Calculator is available for use at the EAPA UK web site: www.eapa.org.uk
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