The impact the Covid-19 pandemic is having on employees’ work and lives shows this is a crucial time for employers to invest in workplace counselling, researchers say.

Their new report has highlighted the effectiveness of workplace counselling.

The research was carried out by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), commissioned by BACP and Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA).

What does the report say?

The report suggests there is strong evidence to highlight a link between workplace counselling and improved wellbeing and organisational outcomes.

It found that if implemented and utilised effectively, workplace counselling can play a role in minimising sickness absence, reducing presenteeism, maximising job retention and helping people with health problems stay in work.

It also highlighted that counselling is especially important for both employers and employees when people return to workplaces after a sustained period of uncertainty and ill-health.

Why is this more relevant now?

Although the research was carried out before the Covid-19 crisis, the report authors say these findings are highly relevant given the impact the pandemic has had on people’s lives and work over the past six months.

Dr Zofia Bajorek, of IES, said: “The impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on mental health and wellbeing has highlighted that organisations, employers, HR managers and wellbeing should be focussing on what interventions are most effective for improving and maintaining mental health at work.  This research has highlighted the important role that workplace counselling can have in supporting employee mental health.

“With this on-going period of anxiety and uncertainty that has occurred as a result of Covid-19, and how this will continue to effect workplaces, job security and working patterns, now is the time for organisations to focus on what will work best for their employees – and workplace counselling could be a simple yet practical solution for providing support to their employees.”

How will this help our members?

Our Workplace Lead Kris Ambler says that having this evidence to highlight the effectiveness of workplace counselling is crucial in our campaigning and policy work to persuade employers to invest more in counselling and therefore create more paid work for our members.

Kris added: “The results are clear: counselling works.

“Modern, progressive organisations operate in increasingly complex environments, and they need a workforce that is adaptive, resilient and well supported. We only need to look at how companies and employees have had to adapt to cope, and the uncertainty many still face, due to the Covid-19 pandemic to see this in action. This is a crucial time for companies to invest in workplace counselling.

“Workplace counselling, as part of wider commitment to staff wellbeing, could be key to giving businesses a competitive edge.”

How was the report carried out?

The researchers reviewed literature on workplace counselling, in addition to convening an expert roundtable to collect the views of experienced practitioners.

The full report aims to promote an understanding of what workplace counselling is, its purpose and the evidence-base underpinning its use.

In addition, the report discusses the future of workplace counselling and ways that its benefits and impact can be more widely understood.

It added it was important to recognise the roll workplace counselling can have, especially if it sits alongside other workplace interventions that also promote employee health and wellbeing.

What do our members say?

Julie Hughes, Chair of the BACP Workplace Executive said: “Many employees and customers choose organisations that are more in line with their own values. Showing you care about the welfare of employees helps secure stronger commitment from staff, supports the development of more diverse workforce and attracts the best talent.”

Andrew Kinder, Vice Chair at EAPA and BACP Governor added: “From being a ‘nice-to-have’ service and the ‘right thing’ to offer employees, EAPs and other forms of counselling have become a fundamental part of an organisation’s risk and resilience planning.

“There has to be more clarity and certainty on what works, and that will mean putting evaluation at the heart of a wellbeing strategy.”

Read the full report