Kimberley Williams, Corporate Benefits Administrator
There are many hats that I wear: mum, wife, family, friend and work colleague to name a few. I try to do the best I can to care for the people in my life, but I’ve struggled to juggle everyone and everything.
Suffering in silence
I think the hardest time was when my daughter was 9 months old and I came back to work. The level of guilt I felt for leaving my daughter made me anxious, even though I was going back to a job that I genuinely enjoyed. Everyone around me kept saying how easy they had found the transition, but I didn’t. During this time, I lost an important member of my family, another close family member was suffering from acute depression and anxiety, and they needed my support as well as professional help.
I was surrounded by lots of friends and colleagues who were praising me and congratulating me on my strength, but I felt anything but strong. I wasn’t sleeping, my eating habits were erratic, and I was breaking out in hives; I wasn’t in a good place at all!
Employee Assistance Programmes gave me a lifeline
My manager at the time suggested that I call the Employee Assistance Programme – or EAP. I knew what an EAP was, but I just hadn’t thought of it. As soon as I started to talk, it was like a broken dam of rushing words and emotions. I think I laughed and cried, and when the call ended, they offered me face-to-face counselling.
I went to see a Counsellor and it enabled me to not only talk freely to someone who didn’t know me but it also taught me ways to manage my stress during an incredibly difficult time. I saw the Counsellor for six sessions, and it didn’t cost me a penny, which was amazing as any added financial stress was not something I needed.
The counselling and support allowed me not only to support my family during that difficult time, but it also meant that I was able to continue to work. It was soon clear that my health and stress levels improved to a manageable workable limit.Without my manager, the amazing EAP service and great counsellor, I am not sure the result would have been the same and certainly not as quick.
Many companies have an EAP service available, either as part of their risk benefit provision, or as a standalone product. They are proven to help employees with not only emotional health but also, financial, life, legal, physical health or really anything causing an employee stress and anxiety. This wide-ranging service is usually available 24/7, giving employees the opportunity to receive completely confidential support and advice.
Since using this life-changing service seven years ago I have often referred other colleagues to this amazing benefit, I even suggested it to a work colleague last week, who was struggling with stress and anxiety and who had limited knowledge or the scheme available to them. If I could, I would shout it from the rooftops.
Income Protection Insurance aids good mental wellbeing
But there are more employee benefits out there that aid mental health in a very practical way. For many employees who have suffered with mental health concerns, access to Income Protection Insurance has been life-changing. This insurance gives those who are off on long-term sick leave a continued source of regular income. Whilst there may be a waiting period, this is typically designed to complement an employer’s ill-health policy. Schemes will normally be set up with a 13- or 26-week waiting period before payments commence. This allows time for the employer to start the claims process and work with the provider to minimise the risk of a long-term absence.
Income Protection Insurance aims to cover any legitimate absence through illness – no matter what the cause – and pays out on a monthly basis to assist employees with managing their bills and expenses. The whole process can alleviate the stress that comes with a long-term sickness, and as such, help people get back to work sooner.
Many Income Protection Insurance providers also offer an absence management support system, providing support in a variety of areas for employees. This includes guidance to get employees back to work, workplace support and evaluations, and they often have online workshops from stress awareness, to bereavement, to cancer support and more.
Income protection needs to be funded by the employer. For some, the potential cost deters employers from considering the scheme. However, the resulting reduction in absence costs can often make the benefit cost-neutral. There are many options within the benefit set-up that can help reduce the impact on budget. Plus, many employers who offer Income Protection introduce it as part of their overall employee wellbeing programme.
If you do need support or know an employee who does, and you have access to an EAP service I would always suggest you try and call. You never know, it might help you like it helped me.