When the children of your employees go away to school for the first time, even under ordinary circumstances, it can be tough on the parent, the child—and the employer. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the additional uncertainty surrounding school and work, these are the times when personal and professional concerns about health and productivity can really hit home for workers and organizations.
By providing Student Survival Kits to help parents and children deal with change, maintain good health and reduce stress, the human resources (HR) team at Husky Energy, headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, has found a way to turn potential problems into multi-pronged solutions that can help employees feel and perform better.
In addition to supplying employees with targeted resources, these kits also introduce them to the wider services available through the company’s employee and family assistance program (EFAP).
“We’ve taken existing services from our EFAP and bundled them into smaller booklets that tackle specific issues,” said Steve Sproule, manager of health, benefits and retirement at Husky Energy. “And it works much better than just telling people to phone the EFAP.”
Expanding the Scope, Reducing the Stigma
Creating kits can help to promote EFAP offerings on a proactive basis—before employees or their dependents need care—which also can help with organizational health care costs.
Instead of asking people to take an extra step like calling an EFAP, organizations can provide tailored resources for common life events. This also can help to reduce other barriers. “There can be a stigma attached to an EFAP, like only people in dire straits are going to use it,” Sproule said. “But when you see it from a preventive and proactive viewpoint, in a positive light, it can really be helpful.”
Sproule said that it didn’t take long for the HR team to move from the conception of these kits to their rollout. The EFAP provider helped to identify content—perhaps an online course, a flier or a descriptive page of a specific service—and HR turned it into booklets that could be shared in hard copy or electronically.
“Even if an employee doesn’t use a kit, they are going to become more aware of EFAP services,” Sproule said. “A Student Survival Kit might be focused purely on the challenges facing young students and their parents, but then they can go on the EFAP website and see all the available resources. The child’s kit might be dealing with peer pressure, bullying, sleep, and the use of alcohol and other substances, and this could open the door for parents to find similar resources that are relevant to their needs too.”
Sproule also noted that it’s a way for people to experience the value of the EFAP, which can heighten employee appreciation.
“It’s very different to tell people we have an EFAP versus showing them programs that can help with targeted issues,” Sproule said. “Then they actually experience it and understand the value.”
He also stressed the organizational importance of employees accessing the EFAP and sometimes getting help before needing to go on a drug maintenance program or medical leave. “Even if employees don’t have an immediate need, it still shows—without them asking for it—that the company cares about them,” Sproule said. “Benefit programs are a reflection of the company’s culture, and it’s a big positive to demonstrate through your programs that you care for your people and their well-being.”
Companies that repackage their existing EFAP resources can become partners in promoting health maintenance. When employees feel empowered and supported during times of transition, it can reduce anxiety, improve personal health and, in turn, lead to better work outcomes.
With COVID-19 upending the way of life for most employees and mental health struggles being on the rise, it could be a good time to remind employees about the services available through your employee assistance program and consider making your own kit to help them deal with their current struggles.
“Look at your offerings in a different light, and find unique ways to demonstrate their value,” Sproule suggested as a key takeaway. “In addition to providing targeted help on one topic, create entry points to other resources.”
Visit the International Foundation Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources page to find helpful information to navigate your organization through the pandemic. And check out the recent article COVID-19: Don’t Forget Your EAP.
Robbie Hartman, CEBS
Editor, Publications, for the International Foundation
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