Even one is aware that the cataclysmic effects of the pandemic include the collateral retrograding of mental wellness. However, the silver lining lies in evidence that mental health is imperative in systems these days, especially in corporate and organizational ones.
While mental health awareness is far from being prevalent in our society, its promising to see that many workplaces have incorporated measures to ensure the mental well-being of their staff. This includes promoting positive mental health awareness at the office and offering job opportunities to persons with mental health problems. Some even go as far as providing accommodation those staff.
To laud these efforts, mental health non-profit organisation Silver Ribbon rewarded companies which have gone the extra mile to regard mental wellness with awards and accolades. It is heartening to hear that Senior Minister of State for Manpower, Zaqy Mohamad, recognises the value of such actions. “Mental health is just as important as physical health and it can have a significant impact on workers’ productivity.”
It has been a challenge to ‘stay sane’ amid these pandemic times. As a result of new work dynamics, such as working from home, not being able to draw boundaries, or being out of work altogether, an online survey conducted by Silver Ribbon revealed that one in four experienced “low mood, anxiety and loneliness more than usual,” said Ms Ellen Lee, president of the said institution.
Many individuals have stepped out to seek help from mental health professionals, and even employers have appealed to Silver Ribbon to conduct talks and handle crises. Many companies have also implemented their own initiatives to maintain the buoyancy of mental welfare. One example is a global mining company Rio Tinto’s Employee Assistance Programme that makes psychologists accessible to colleagues and families.
Employees who experience anxiety or burn out tend to need rest but hesitate to get a medical certificate (MC) for that. Some companies allow managers to give their members time off due to mental health issues without the need of producing an MC.
World Health Organisation supports the cause and stated that every $1 put into scaled up treatment for common mental disorders will reap a return-on investment of $4 in improved health and productivity. It is increasingly being recognised that poor mental health can also lead to burn-to amongst employees, affecting their ability to contribute meaningfully in both their personal and professional lives.
Companies such as Dell Technologies Inc and Delta Air Lines made onsite counselling for employees available way before the pandemic started. In hope of improving employee performance and retention, they recognised that employees struggle to find the help they need that fits their schedule, or simply did not want to pay for it. Crying was then no longer confined to the bathroom stall at these workplaces.
Bringing professionals onsite can be one method, but it could prove costly for smaller companies. Ad hoc therapy exercises can be effective too. In Singapore, Alliance Counselling and Aventis Learning Group offers workshops such as the 1-Day Corporate Mental Wellness Workshop which helps participants explore how mental wellness and resources such as mindfulness interventions can benefit workers. Founder of Harmony Counseling, Martin Williams comments, “Happiness at home and happiness at work have always been linked. Now they are intertwined more than ever and companies can take a leading position to support their employees in both arenas.” Harmony Counselling works with SMEs in Singapore which don’t have the resources to establish and maintain their own mental health programmes. Their bespoke services include counselling for employees, training staff to manage mental health issues, webinar presentations and stress reduction workshops.
The Singapore Counselling Centre (SCC) conducts a wide range of corporate, school and public talks and seminars that aims to raise public awareness on mental health issues. Launched by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), the Employer Support Grant supports organisations that hire persons with mental health conditions by providing grants for training opportunities or helping with workplace adjustments. This grant covers two areas: paying up to $1,500 per trainee for onsite vocational training, and workplace adjustment schemes that include co-worker training, supervisor training and advisory support, Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) and job redesign.
Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) aim to benefit employees by providing assistance for any personal or work-related problems that could have an adverse impact on their performance or well-being. The SCC is a registered partner in delivering EAPs and a provider for NCSS’s ESG.
Eugene Chong, Director/Principal Counselling Psychologist with Seeding Minds reiterates the importance of reinforcing mental robustness in the workplace. “With the availability of support, employees will be mentally and emotionally more resilient, and that will increase productivity and intrinsic motivation of the employees.”
Having such resources available will not replace private counselling for individuals, but they are important launch pads for creating awareness in areas of need. “Most of the time, humans are operating at a mode of inertia and hence they will typically not actively seek help. Therefore, these services provide ‘at the door step approach’ as support to the employees. There are more requests for private therapy after corporate therapy has been actively promoted to the employees via talks and workshops,” quips Eugene.
Companies should start, if they haven’t already, to set aside funds for employees’ mental health. The saying ‘health is wealth’ still holds true, and this time we have to acknowledge that mental health is an intrinsic part of one’s wellbeing.
Martin Williams is a qualified counsellor, who has been involved in a wide variety of activities in both his work and personal life. Based in Singapore and the A/P region since 1990, he has had multiple experiences of living in remote locations and in challenging conditions which few professional people can match. His 30+ years’ experience in small, medium and large organisations has been invaluable in giving him direct insight into the many forms of anxiety in the workplace. Martin’s personal and career experience has given him a high level of professionalism, cultural sensitivity & understanding, and an outlook on life which is both balanced and informed.
Eugene Chong is the Director / Principal Counselling Psychologist with Seeding Minds with 16 years of experience under his belt. He is also an adjunct lecturer at various schools that offer approved psychology and counselling training programmes, from Diploma to Masters Levels. Some of his specialities are men’s mental health, marriage and partnerships and eating disorders.
Known as Nate, I am someone who cannot quit wielding the pen or punching the QWERTY, no matter where life brings me. Writing has always been the most effective conduit for channeling my wanted or unwanted opinions since I was an undergraduate at NUS. Naturally, I used this skill as a means of sustenance after working as a writer and editor for many years until I decided to start a business in music. That did not put a halt to my marriage with the vernacular.
In October 2016, I graduated with my Masters in Visual and Media Anthropology, which is the study of cultures through films and photography, at Freie Universität Berlin. This transitory period of residing in two cities has pushed the boundaries of my creativity and my battles with word count have not ceased.
Now a new mode of writing, the academic one, has been added to my existing smorgasbord of corporate and lifestyle collaterals, articles, advertisements, annual reports and books. At the moment, my learning curve is an uphill journey as I attempt to grasp the camera for stills and motion clips, while I juggle that with developing my love affair with my other mode of expression – electronic music.