Workplace counselling is an employee support tool that is usually short term in nature and provides an independent, specialist resource for people working across all sectors and in all working environments.
Workplace counselling is an employee support tool that is usually short term in nature and provides an independent, specialist resource for people working across all sectors and in all working environments. Giving all employees access to a free, confidential, workplace counselling service can potentially be viewed as part of an employer’s duty of care.
Employers and clients that need counselling services
Workplace counsellors offer support to people in organisations across all sectors, locations and sizes. While counselling is available on the NHS, the long waiting times, lack of specialist insight and inflexibility of appointment times and locations make workplace counselling a more attractive option to many employers.
Some organisations pay for counselling by recruiting a workplace counsellor either full time or part time, or on an ad hoc basis, depending on the size of the workforce.
Several factors, primarily the size of the organisation and the funds available, dictate how counselling is provided within an organisation. More important than the type of service used is the understanding that counselling must be confidential and voluntary, so it should not be used as a conditional requirement or as part of a disciplinary process.
Organisations sometimes think that the counselling provision they are paying for should only be used to address issues directly relating to the employee’s work life. While work-related issues, including stress, overwork, bullying and difficult colleagues, can of course directly impact an employee’s performance, personal issues can have a similar negative impact.
We all experience life-crisis issues at different stages in our lives. Experiences such as bereavement and loss, relationship and family difficulties, substance misuse (including alcohol issues) and stresses at home can all preoccupy someone’s thinking and distract them from work. In certain safety-sensitive industries this can also be a major risk.
Workplace counselling often helps employees who are absent from work, and there is evidence that counselling support can accelerate the rehabilitation of an absent employee, saving the organisation money in the long run. In short, everyone who works in an organisation is a potential client.
The success rate or counselling and studies
There is a growing evidence for the counselling generally, and, within the profession, workplace counselling has been particularly well researched.
A 2010 systematic study by McLeod of the research evidence, showed that workplace counselling interventions have been found to reduce sickness absence rates in organisations by as much as 50%. This fact alone demonstrates the cost-effective nature of counselling, and the positive impact it can have on an organisation’s productivity.
Studies focused on individual organisations have further reinforced this positive financial message. An evaluation by the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology in 1990 found that the introduction of a counselling service at the Post Office saved it £102,000 over a six-month period.
A 2012 Cambridge University study showed clearly that the effect of time-limited counselling (an average of seven sessions) on distressed clients is positive. Evidence drawn from a sizeable treatment group suggested that such counselling leads to an increased sense of wellbeing. Another study found that workplace counselling contributed to “significant improvements on most attitude-to-work factors: opportunity for control, skill use, job demand, clarity, feeling valued, interpersonal contact, competence, work spill-over, adequacy of pay and job satisfaction”. To put it another way, counselling leads to happier, more positive and secure employees.
Earlier this year, a UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) study reviewed the outcome of more than 28,000 EAP counselling interventions. The findings indicate the success of EAPs when it comes to engaging with clients and matching client problems with relevant and appropriate counsellors, as well as offering speedy interventions that minimise the time employees are required to wait for professional support.
A key finding from the above study is that 70% of the EAP clients were demonstrably shown to recover or improve following their counselling intervention. In terms of service, EAPs were shown to offer shorter waiting times for treatment than services available on the NHS, and clients were vastly more likely to see the counselling treatment through to completion.