Distress about personal relationships can have a big impact on a person’s ability to concentrate, feel happy, and motivated to do their best job when they’re at work – often having a wider impact on team members and clients.

When considering the options available to support your team’s overall health and wellbeing, it may come as a surprise that many employers think it’s only relevant for them to support their staff with work-related issues or challenges. However, Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) – which every one of our policyholders has included within their plans – can provide confidential counselling for a variety of areas that impact a person’s wellbeing, including personal relationships and grief.

Our dedicated EAP provider, Validium, is a dynamic specialist and independent provider set up in 1998, and the only EAP provider worldwide with accreditation to ISO 9001 (Quality Management), ISO27001 (Information Security Management), ISO22301 (Business Continuity Management) and IIP Gold (Investors in People Gold) Standards.

This week, they provide insight into their study which shows that over a quarter of all calls received during in the year to March 2018 (28.6%) were linked to family arguments and the breakdown of personal relationships – making it the biggest cause of employee concern. It’s slightly ahead of mental health issues, which were the primary concern for 27.9% of callers.

Karen Matovu, Manager, Training Services at Validium, explained. “The data highlights the extent to which employees crave and want positive relationships, but struggle to achieve them. So for any employer keen to boost emotional wellbeing across their workplace, helping people to access support through family arguments, disputes and unstable relationships is now every bit as important as mental health education.

But where should you start when it comes to helping them cope with family issues?

1. Prepare them to avoid arguments
In the event that there is a big fall out, as little as one conversation with a counsellor at the end of the phone can help them to reflect on and confidentially share their hurts with someone independent, to help them make sense of it and devise a better way of handling the situation going forward – helping them to deal with it more effectively, including when they’re at work and need to be present.

2. Build emotional resilience
Our ability to take the heat out of situations and prevent ourselves from falling into an argument with someone is greatly defined by how we handle pressure. This, in turn, is influenced by our resilience, our ability to experience events, but not become personally damaged or distressed by them.

• Understand their stress signals and take positive action to de-stress
• Encourage them to take good physical care of themselves, by eating well, getting enough sleep and exercising
• Identify supportive people, or resources, that they can turn to during stressful times

3. Support those estranged from family
Even when an employee has learned to manage their emotions, be clear about what is and isn’t acceptable to them.

Sibling rivalries, repeatedly clashing views and interference from others – not to mention emotional or physical abuse – can cause a family relationship to become unsustainable. Either because repeated arguments cause individual family members to become estranged or because someone has had to take the difficult decision to remove themselves from an emotionally damaging person or situation.

Although society tells us that ‘blood is thicker than water’, and family relationships can’t be replaced, there are still occasions when everyone involved could benefit from taking some time apart from each other: either to get their perspective back or because the relationship can’t be made healthy.

In the event that someone becomes estranged from their family, they might feel too embarrassed or ashamed to admit this to colleagues, or even their boss, opting instead to lie about how they’re spending Christmas or Easter for example, and forcing themselves to carry the burden all alone.

Given the prevalence of family breakdown, it’s almost inevitable that your organisation has several employees who are struggling to cope with family issues, or who have even become estranged from people they love and care about, so do make sure everyone is made aware of any confidential support services in place, such as the EAP or relevant charity helplines.”

If you have a Paycare policy in place and want some advice and guidance from Paycare about how you can better promote or communicate the availability of your EAP service, please do get in touch with your account manager, or contact us. Alternatively, to find out more about our range of employer and employee-paid plans, visit our Corporate Plans page.