Remote work: Why mental health support is crucial

Singapore's leaders urge employers to check in on workers amid COVID-19 disruptions

Remote work: Why mental health support is crucial

Extended periods of working from home and disruptions during COVID-19 could be highly stressful for some employees, said Singapore’s leaders.

An inter-agency team, including the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Institute of Mental Health (IMH), advised employers to offer mental health support during this time of crisis.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to significant disruptions to work arrangements,” the team said in a joint release. “It has hit our economy hard and brought about many uncertainties to our workers, including employees and self-employed persons.

“During this period of uncertainty, employers and workers could consider taking practical steps, and tapping on counselling resources, to support one’s mental well-being.”

They highlighted how employees’ well-being may be at higher risk:

  • Workers may be anxious about their job security, work prospects, and revenue sources.
  • Working remotely for a prolonged period may lead to social isolation.
  • Parents with young children balancing work with supervising their children’s home-based learning arrangements.

READ MORE: How has COVID-19 affected employee well-being?

What can employers do?
To help safeguard mental wellness during this trying time, the team suggested various ways employers can offer support, as well as ways employees can help themselves.

  • Keep employees updated of the company’s salary and leave arrangements
    Employers should adopt MOM’s recommended guidelines on communicating salary and leave policies for employees working from home or on work suspension.
  • Do regular check-ins with employees
    This should take place at least once a week. Managers could have informal chats with staff, such as via video conferencing or messaging applications, and ask how they’re coping. Leaders can also encourage the team to support one another. You can even engage on ‘after work’ chats or activities.

READ MORE: Revealed: Fun ideas for your next virtual happy hour

  • Offer access to external counselling or EAPs
    Sign up to an EAP (employee assistance program) as part of staff benefits. HR should assure employees that all sessions are kept private and confidential.

How individuals can support themselves
Employees can also do their part and be mindful of their well-being, reaching out for help when needed. Here are some additional tips from the agency.

  • Maintain a circle of social support
    Individuals are encouraged to reach out to their families and friends via video conferencing or messaging applications regularly. They can also tap on various counselling resources, such as the 24/7 National CARE Hotline.
  • Stay active and healthy
    Simple tips like getting at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep daily. Eating a balanced diet to strengthen immunity. Exercising daily. Picking up a new activity or skill. Master simple relaxation techniques.
  • Tap on grants and assistance available
    There have been several measures included so far in the Solidarity, Resilience and Unity budgets.

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