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2022-05-12 07:45:00

Workplace Mental Health Is Important. Here’s How To Create A Mentally Healthy Workplace.

Mental health and wellness are becoming the next frontiers of diversity and inclusion. From being a “nice-to-have” initiative to becoming a “true business imperative”, organisations should ensure that their employees are well-equipped with the resources they need to start conversations or seek help.   



As the nation moves to ease up on COVID-19 safety measures, such as removing the cap on unique household visitors and allowing all workers to return to the workplace from late April, the conversation surrounding workplace mental health has once again picked up steam.

Across industries, employees are worried about the transition from working at home back to working back in the office. Employers may also see challenges in reinforcing company values and creating a positive work culture in the office. Experts too have warned companies not to rush their employees back into the office and instead allow them to have some semblance of flexibility and help them readjust back to the workplace after two or more years of working from home. In fact, Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang has advocated for flexible work arrangements to be permanent, following the statement by the tripartite partners—Ministry of Manpower, Singapore National Employers Federation and National Trades Union Congress—that practices, such as working from home or staggered working hours, should remain in practice in April.   

In the fall of 2019, prior to the pandemic, Harvard Business Review (HBR) published a piece detailing how employees want employers to talk about mental health. Researchers found that mental health remains a taboo subject amongst the 1,500 US-based adults who worked across profit, non-profits, and government sectors. Interestingly, the piece also highlights how a generation shift in awareness wherein younger employees, specifically the Gen Zs and millennials, would leave their roles for mental health reasons as well. According to the study, some of the most desired workplace resources for mental health include educating employees on mental wellness and having a more open and accepting culture. Most importantly, managers and chief executives, not just HRs, ought to disseminate clearer information about where to go or who to ask for support.

In a follow-up study two years later, HBR revealed that in the post-pandemic climate, mental health at work is a whole new ball game. Today, employers know the saliency of mental wellness. Mental wellness support has since evolved from a “nice-to-have” initiative to becoming a “true business imperative”. Giving mental health days off or signing up for other wellness applications are simply not enough to ensure a mentally healthy workplace.

For starters, it is agreeable that the office has never been a one size fits all environment; it has and always will cater to only some individuals. With more companies calling workers back to offices, some may furrow their brows on the emotional transitioning required to adapt again. Small problems may feel large. Large problems may seem colossal.

To better understand how organisations can better create a workspace that is mentally healthy, SNCF spoke with the team at social enterprises Emmaus Strategies and Happiness Initiative, as well as mental wellness entity PsychHabitat on the negative habits that might impact their mental wellness and how employers can help employees pivot better.

Why should organisations, not just co-ops, be concerned with/about employees’ well-being?

James Lim (Founder of Emmaus Strategies): Organisations are made up of people. I strongly believe that organisations are only as healthy, strong, and impactful, as their people.

Sherman Ho (Co-founder of Happiness Initiative): Having good employee well-being has been shown to improve staff productivity and turnover rate. But beyond that, staff's well-being is a basic right everyone deserves to have as human beings.

How best can we improve empathy in the workplace?

James Lim: A major part of empathy is the ability to understand and be sensitive to the needs and feelings of another party. If there's one thing COVID-19 has taught us, it is that everyone is fighting their own unique battle, whether seen or unseen. So, the first step to improving empathy in the workplace is to simply go beyond one’s self. It is okay to reach out and help others.

Sherman Ho: I think it starts from the managers. It is often the managers and the leaders of the company that set the tone and culture. If the managers don't practise empathy, it is unlikely that the employees will too.

How can organisations be part of the social conversation on mental wellness?

James Lim: In my work in Emmaus, we always believe in the A.R.T. of mental resilience; A.R.T. is short for awareness, resilience and transformation. A good first step is for organisations to recognise that mental wellbeing is as important as, or if not more than, one’s physical well-being. Starting with awareness, they can help people understand mental well-being and then create safe spaces and opportunities for authentic internal conversations, appropriate access to mental well-being support and adequate equipping of mental resilience. It helps when leaders walk the talk, by showing genuine concern for their team's mental well-being and being real; being willing to share about their own mental well-being appropriately and authentically may help too.

Check out our Co-ops Only Mental Wellness Workshop!

Building Blocks to a Resilient, Happier & Thriving New Normal
27 May 2022, 9.30am – 12.30pm
Sign up here!

 

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SNCF is the apex body of Singapore’s Co-operative Movement, and secretariat of the Central Co-operative Fund (CCF). Formed in 1980 with the aim of championing Singapore’s Co-operative Movement, the apex body represents 99% of co-operative members in Singapore through its affiliated co-operatives.