EAP Benefits for Small Businesses

EAP is not just for big organisations. Supporting mental wellbeing is important for any business, regardless of size.

Small-to-Medium-Enterprises (‘SMEs’) mean business. And lots of it too. According to the FSB*, there are currently 5.6 million SMEs in the UK, and as reported by the CSO**, nearly 250,000 active SMEs in Ireland.

Classified by the EU as businesses with fewer than 250 employees, SMEs are comprised of Micro Enterprises (fewer than 10 employees), Small Enterprises (fewer than 50 employees) and Medium Enterprises (fewer than 250 employees). Not only do these businesses employ 16.3 million people, they bring in a combined annual turnover of £2 trillion to the economy. The facts speak for themselves: Small businesses are the driving force behind the economy.


The mental health statistics

That’s why news from the Mental Health Organisation that one in six people experience the symptoms of a mental health problem in any given week is cause for concern – as is the Investors in People report that the cost of poor mental health is costing employers between £33 and £42 billion each year. SMEs account for 99.5% of the businesses in every main industry sector, which can only mean they must be the ones bearing the brunt. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions”.

Working for a SME can be exciting, but it can also be challenging. Big rewards are offset by limited resources, heavy workloads and extra responsibilities. And while multi-faceted roles and tight deadlines are commonplace wherever you work, such is the level of personal pressure and unpredictability of the work-life balance, working for a SME is a markedly different experience from that of a larger organisation.


The mental health challenges

Not only can stress and anxiety take a bigger toll on workplace wellbeing, those conditions can aggravate pre-existing mental health problems. Owners of SMEs are in a better position than most to directly influence their employees. However, the downside to being so visible and familiar is that topics around mental health can’t always be freely talked about. The trouble is that failure to protect and improve employee mental health at the individual level can have negative repercussions on productivity, performance and turnover, not to mention, increase the likelihood of sickness and accidents.


The benefits of EAPs for SMEs

SMEs taking immediate and practical decisions at ‘board level’ to change working practices, in-house communication and the office culture can have a positive impact on employee mental health – as can using the additional support provided by an Employee Assistance Programme (‘EAP’).

Despite being the most commonly used workforce health intervention tool in the UK, Employee Assistance Programmes have been traditionally associated with larger organisations. In reality, they offer businesses of any size affordable and long-term access to mental health support 24/7, all year round, enabling them to safeguard their employees’ mental health and provide the necessary duty of care.


Resolving problems early

And while certain workplace challenges are specific to SMEs, with the support of a comprehensive Employee Assistance Programme, mental health problems don’t have to be. If anything, being able to operate an EAP on a comparatively smaller scale makes it easier to spot employee mental health issues and take direct action.


Supporting under pressure

Having an Employee Assistance Programme in place enables SMEs to effectively pre-empt potential workplace stress, deal with full-blown problems and manage day-to-day mental health during high-pressure periods. This combined with having an EAP that uses the latest approaches, technology and wellness initiatives can pre-empt stress and help employees maintain their mental health on a proactive rather than reactive basis.


Improving productivity, reducing costs & increasing revenue

In a business sector so dependent on long-term knowledge and in-house experience, good mental health is essential. Having access to an Employee Assistance Programme makes employees feel valued in their role, which in turn boosts morale. Job satisfaction not only enhances employee productivity and performance, but improves business revenue – not least, because it helps to reduce the absenteeism that costs in lost turnover. Furthermore, properly engaging employees also bodes well for long-term staff retention, which in a small business, means everything.


Helping small businesses look after employees

Small businesses are often faced with constraints on resources and time – and often, a distinct lack of HR department. Having a standalone Employee Assistance Programme that seamlessly fits into the existing work culture, more than fills the void. It means that those tasked with managing workplace wellbeing can go back to working in rather than on the business. A defining EAP benefit for small business.


Mental health support, whenever, however

Furthermore, Employee Assistance Programmes can offer small businesses counselling support for all kinds of personal or work-related problems in a variety of digital or onsite formats. Whether it’s via web or mobile app, telephone, video, face to face – or even a live chat facility via a website – employees, their partners and dependents can access a confidential counselling service, along with free phone support, and consultations that can support them with any legal, financial, or other lifestyle issues.


Offering a whole approach

In addition to providing support system for those in need of help, an EAP can offer a complete approach to maintaining general wellbeing. Additional services and educational resources such as life coaching, career advice, financial planning and consumer advice can help employees address any aspect of their life that may be causing them concern. Properly managing employee mental health requires a whole workplace approach.


Maintaining the work-life balance

Achieving a work-life balance is great in theory, but small businesses demand a lot of time and energy, often to the detriment of relaxation and downtime. That’s why in an age where technology, work and leisure have merged, Employee Assistance Programmes have never been more important in helping employees of small businesses handle the unpredictable demands on their time and have the essential resources they need to maintain a work-life balance.


A more positive work environment

Making sure the work environment is conducive to optimum mental health will always be an ongoing challenge for small businesses. However, having an EAP goes a significant way towards enabling employees to take responsibility for their own mental health on an ongoing basis. If independence is key to workplace wellbeing, then where better to practice it than in your small business?


* National Federation of Self Employed and Small Businesses

**Central Statistics Office