Thanks to the pandemic, mental health and mental well-being have become even more important than ever. With the workplace now seeing a resurgence of people heading back to the office, leaders, now more than ever, need to be intentional about or committed to being clued in on their employees’ well-being.
Acknowledging the saliency of mental wellness and how a mentally healthy workplace is a more resilient and productive workforce, Singapore National Co-operative Federation (SNCF) has taken steps to help affiliates stay connected to their mental well-being since the pandemic began.
Last year, SNCF, alongside local co-operative A Good Space, organised a pilot mental wellness workshop for some co-operators. Our editorial team had also featured three profiles—Minister of State Alvin Tan, breast cancer survivor Charlene Koh, and Singapore’s Olympic diver Jonathan Chan—on how they cope with mental stress.
In May this year, right after the news that workers are allowed to return to the office, we spotlighted Decathlon’s Fazrie Pawzni and Hubspot’s Andee Chua on how we can create an empathetic workplace as well as document examples that work.
On 27 May, representatives from different co-operatives congregated at the first-ever mental wellness workshop of the year. Dubbed “Building Blocks To A Resilient, Happier & Thriving New Normal”, the workshop is also jointly organised by A Good Space and this time, it featured three of A Good Space’s members—Happiness Initiative, The Ubuntu Space and Emmaus Strategies.
The workshop was attended by Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), and Trade & Industry Alvin Tan, his first in-person interaction with fellow co-operators since joining MCCY in 2020. Executive Director of the Registry of Co-operative Society and Mutual Benefit Organisations (RCS) Desmond Chin also participated in the event.
Lauding the workshop, Mr Alvin Tan says: “I really liked using some of the tools there to serve as conversation starters or conversational topics, whether it is for employees or just anyone actually. In fact, I think many of us should do this.”
Read the MOS Alvin Tan’s full interview with SNCF here.
Ler Jun: As a minister of state for multiple portfolios, I am sure you have had interacted with different industry leaders and individuals on the topic of teams returning to work physically. What do you think workplace leaders/managers can do to prevent “back to the office” jitters or help in a more seamless transit back to the workplace?
Alvin Tan: It's been challenging for the past two years. We’ve been working from home and now we're transitioning back to what we used to know or be familiar with, which is being at the workplace or at times, working overtime. There’re these adjustments of going back to work and moving life to pre-Covid-19. These are two major adjustments. What is the government doing in that regard then?
There's the Tripartite Advisory on mental well-being for employees at workplaces. That’s encouraging companies to do a few different things, to help employees, especially for those with young children, to work remotely, flexibly, and also to help them have regular check-ins for their mental health at work.
LJ: What do you think are the ways employers can support employees’ mental well-being?
Alvin Tan: I think employers now have the opportunities to interact more with employees to try to understand and to find out more—regular check-ins, as I’ve mentioned, are very, very important. Employers then have a good eye on what are the issues that may be affecting employees. These issues could be workplace stress or stress at home.
There are many different tools that we have available. For example, young NTUC and NTUC LearningHub have many of these programs to help equip employers and employees to do peer support. We also have iWorkHealth, which is an online tool to assess your employees’ mental well-being and mental health. These tools help employers understand the state of the mental well-being of their employees.
LJ: Larger corporations, by and large, have the know-how and more resources for employees to cope with mental wellness. What kind of help do you think small-medium enterprises (SMEs) or Co-ops will need in this regard?
Alvin Tan: There are many different programs, but maybe I just weigh one. This is run by a Health Promotion Board, called Workplace Outreach Wellness or ‘WOW’. What WOW does is to help SMEs to come up with programs tailored for their specific purpose to help employees’ mental well-being and mental wellness
LJ: Do you think such mental wellness workshops like today’s session help? If so, how?
Alvin Tan: I think it's a very, very good workshop by the way. I really liked using some of the tools there to serve as conversation starters or conversational topics, whether it is for employees or just anyone actually. Having an open safe space for them to share about their stresses, especially in a collaborative manner, is great. Personally, it was very therapeutic. I also found that the workshop has an organised way of structuring these kinds of conversations. And I wish to see more of this. In fact, I think many of us should do this.
LJ: As a leader, how are you advocating/advising your team members to prevent burnouts?
Alvin Tan: One of the ways for my team is to take time off, I think that's very important. Either go out for a walk. Now that travel is available, go when you can. It is also important to talk to each other. Sometimes I think that's the best way to talk to one another. You can consider talking to other people outside of your work circle. It is good that you have a safe place for you to share your concerns, stresses, as well as some of the feelings that you may not be aware of.
I think Covid-19 has constrained interactions but now with face-to-face possible, these conversations that we are having now are very, very salient; (starting conversations and being tuned in to my emotions) is one of those things that I need to do better. It's also the type of I'm going to do that in June. And so, I always encourage my team to just take time off, recharge, relax, and then come back.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
By Sng Ler Jun