Workplace counselling is an employee support intervention 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 confidential, workplace counselling service can potentially be viewed as part of an employer’s duty of care.
Responsibilities and skills
An employee counselling process is about providing a sounding board for an employee, giving them a safe place to talk about issues that trouble them, to help them find their own solutions to problems or develop better ways to manage issues. It is not about giving advice, but about providing a non-judgmental, empathic and accessible means to allow an employee to find a way forward.
As a workplace counsellor I am thinking about the employee and the organisation, as a peripheral client.
Workplace counselling is usually short term (up to eight fifty minute sessions)
When working with organisations I take time to get to know the particular cultural pressures
Employers and clients
While counselling is available on the NHS, the long waiting times, lack of specialist insight and inflexibility of appointment times and locations can frustrate the employee, and lead to a delay in the return to full well-being.
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.
There is a growing evidence base for the efficacy of counselling generally, and, within the profession, workplace counselling has been particularly well researched.
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.
Good mental health is key to increasing performance, productivity and engagement amongst staff. We can support your response to the 2017 Stevenson Farmer Report - Thriving at Work: a review of mental health and employers.
Contact me today to find out how I help improve the mental health of your employees, both individually and from a corporate perspective.