World Mental Health Day: How HR can help staff

Long hours, the rise of the “always on” culture and all things stressful in Singapore – can HR help employees overcome it all?

World Mental Health Day: How HR can help staff

Countless reports cite high levels of work-related stress as a top health problem among Singaporeans. In light of World Mental Health Day on 10 October, what can employers and HR professionals do to help improve employee well-being?

We spoke to Ed Burleigh, senior marketing manager at WellteQ, a wellness technology start-up, who gave us the lowdown on how to tackle the different facets of well-being.

Step one: Reframe the culture
Employee well-being is on-trend for most at the moment with more and more employers starting to realise that a healthy workforce equates to a happy workforce, and a happy workforce equates to a more productive workforce.

Outside of wellness programs there are various other initiatives that Singapore employers can do to lead by example. One such way is to address and reframe the culture of working long hours and the perception that you cannot leave before the boss, which still occurs in some organisations. Employers should dispel this archaic practice by either leaving on time or, even better, making sure that their workforce knows it’s ok to leave before them.

The HR department can also play a key role in employee well-being by making sure that procedures like appraisals, grievances and employee surveys are all strictly adhered to. By reinforcing employees’ rights, they should be able to spot any issues before they arise and offer the correct support where appropriate.

Step two: Understand that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to employee wellness and trying to shoehorn people into a generic wellness program is likely to disengage them even further. A ‘mass personalisation’ approach means that programs are highly customisable and designed to provide a unique experience per individual to maximise healthy behavioural change all while not feeling like just another number.

When it comes to the mental health aspects of a wellness program, this is something that people, understandably, prefer to approach individually. However this doesn’t mean that they need to feel isolated as they can still be exposed to an active content feed and, by using a community-driven environment, will still get caught up in the excitement of other challenges even if they aren’t participating in them.

To make mental health programs effective for different groups of workers, it’s important to maintain good lines of communication. While it’s not advisable to segregate the comms based on employee demographics, you can make sure that your messaging is fully inclusive.

Good messaging will bring awareness to the support channels available to employees struggling with mental health issues, such as reading relevant articles, accessing the EAP, or using a virtual coaching service within the program.

Step three: Help employees to “switch off”
EB: In this ever-connected world, it can be difficult for people to pull themselves away from their smartphones. However, it isn’t just about spending too much time on your favourite social media platform, the growing number of workplace apps means that, in theory, you are always contactable by your employer.

Ironically, while these tools are designed to increase productivity, they can actually lead to loss of productivity through increased stress levels. A stressed out and unproductive employee impacts the organisation in a number of ways, including team morale, business targets and, ultimately, profitability.

There are a number of things employers can do to stop getting to this stage:

  • Cut down on digital communications outside of work hours. Anything non-urgent should be sent by email and can be dealt with the following day
  • With most productivity tools, you can see when someone is online so if, as a manager, you see one of your employees on a work channel late at night it should be your responsibility to address the situation – eg assess their workload or reward staff for going offline after hours
  • Introduce wellness initiatives – eg make users more mindful of their screen time and adjust their habits accordingly

However, responsibility also lies with the employee having the courage to lay down boundaries with their employer.

An effective workplace wellness strategy centres around the employee, who is after all a human. All humans need certain things – sleep, activity, water, social interaction, recognition… the list goes on. A good place to start with a wellness program is to ask yourself two questions:

  1. Is this something that could improve someone's well-being?
  2. Is this something that the average person on the street would appreciate or enjoy?

If the answer is yes to both you’re at least on the right track.


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