The impact of COVID-19 on an employee assistance programme in a multinational insurance organisation : considerations for the future

10 May 2021

Abstract: Orientation: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has led to an increased focus on the effectiveness of employee assistance programmes (EAPs). Research purpose: To evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on the value, utilisation and scope of an EAP within the South African insurance sector. Motivation for the study: Higher levels of stress and anxiety experienced by employees because of COVID-19 has necessitated the need to better understand the reasons for EAPs utilisation and its effectiveness within organisations. Research approach/design and method: The study provided an overview of employee wellbeing and an overview of the origins and evolution of EAPs. The study utilised thematic analysis to analyse 1002 cases with a sample of n = 907, pre-and post-onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Main findings: The utilisation of EAPs increased because of COVID-19, yet the reasons for accessing these programmes remained largely consistent before and during COVID-19. At a sub-theme level, the priority of themes differed across the time periods influenced by external context and circumstance. Practical/managerial implications: The study found a need to clearly define employee wellbeing and reposition the role of EAPs within the organisation. Organisations need to broaden the scope of EAPs and through continuous education and awareness create an environment where employees feel like they can safely access these services. Contribution/value-add: The study contributes towards the current literature on employee well-being and providing a perspective on the relevance, value and utilisation of EAPs before and during a pandemic.