Robert’s colleague told him that the employee assistance program was here somewhere…he clicks on a few more boxes and he seems to be now going in roundabouts. I was just on this page, he curses to himself. He begins to get frustrated; he can feel his hand become sweaty from sternly pressing the mouse. This is ridiculous. He slams onto a few more keys, before he deflates into his office chair. Whatever, probably not worth it anyway. As he sits down with his eyes drowsed over, he thinks about how tough things have felt recently. He just doesn’t know what to do, he feels helpless and completely out of energy.
From the corner of his eye, he can see his manager walking towards. He pulls himself up in the seat and quickly clicks ‘X’ on his browser, watching the ‘wellbeing page’ of the portal disappear.
His manager looks over, Hey Robert, how are you going? Do you have a moment for a quick chat?
Robert’s heart sinks. Sure, no problem, Brad. In your office?
As Robert gets up, he can feel himself shaking inside. His performance hasn’t changed over the last few months, so he feels sure that his manager isn’t speaking to him about that, but regardless, he feels unsteady and begins to worry that maybe he has gotten it wrong.
Brad sits down at his desk and waves his hand towards the empty chair across from him, signalling for Robert to take a seat. Robert calmly sits down, but his heart is racing and can feel his body lose energy, just as it has over the past few months. Robert shuffles a little in his seat to try and get comfortable and waits for Brad to speak.
Robert, I’ve been wanting to speak to you over the past few weeks, and I hope you don’t mind me reaching out. I’ve been noticing that you haven’t seemed yourself. You’re still doing great in terms of your performance, you just seem a bit more distant than usual, and I could have the messages wrong, but I thought it would be worth checking you’re all good.
Robert feels his heart sink. A load of tension that was building up he can feel slip away a little.
Brad, thank you. I am OK, I’ve just got some things happening at home now and am trying to get support outside of work.
Brad looks back, Thanks for opening up, Robert. I am here to support you too. Have you spoken to our EAP service? And thought about whether you might like some more flexibility in your hours while you work on things at home?
As Robert half lets out a chuckle… I was actually trying to find the EAP details on the intranet as you were approaching, but couldn’t and gave up after 10 minutes of looking.
Brad meets the smile… Don’t worry, I’ve got it all here for you. Let us work together and I want you to feel comfortable to tell me how you’re going as the weeks go by.
Thanks Brad, I will.
How many times have you gone onto your internal portal to find something useful, and then what feels like an hour later, you find yourself still sitting there, clicking on links, trying to find the god forsaken document that you just need to get your job done?
I am sure anyone reading this article has been there, done that…and if you have, you’re probably smiling right now at how ridiculously accurate that feels.
But what if the thing you were searching for wasn’t a document template, or information on simply how to order a new piece of IT equipment, but instead was the only moment you had where you decided you might need a bit of extra support.
You finally got the courage to call the EAP, but after a 20-minute search for the details, the moment is gone and you’ve gone back to your day feeling frustrated and annoyed and no better off.
Where we sometimes go wrong as organisations is that we forget to consider the process in which an individual takes to get to your mental health support systems that your team has worked so hard to put into place. Be that an EAP, a peer support program, a fitness class, a mindfulness session, whatever it is, it isn’t as simple as a process as simply “signing up” to the intimidating yoga class, or simply “giving a call” to the scary psychologist. It isn’t simply “being self-aware” when you’ve rehearsed avoiding your anxiety, or simply “telling someone that you’re not OK” when you’ve spent years pretending everything is OK.
We assume these processes are simple, and we assume that if we offer a service or offering, that employees who need it will wake up tomorrow, and be like “Oh, hey, THAT’S RIGHT, I need some support right now”
No. That isn’t how it works.
I remember when I was unwell. No matter how many wellbeing initiatives were happening around me, or how many times I saw a poster for the EAP, I didn’t sign up, I didn’t make the call, I always thought I am better off getting that big deadline finished, even if I feel exhausted and it isn’t my best work right now.
Encouraging your employees to access your support systems is about allowing employees to space to actually engage with those services. It is about enabling employees to see the value in investing in themselves and understanding that taking care of yourself is part of your job as a valued employee.
It is about sharing stories that connect individuals to why they should call the EAP, sign up to the yoga class, or speak to their manager about support.
Really, at the end of the day, it isn’t necessarily about the “what” – we all know what we need to do to stay mentally healthy. It is about the “why should I”.