What does it say about me that I have a mental health issue? It says that I am human.
The issue of mental health is by no means new to the workplace. According to this Singapore Mental Health Study (SMHS) from 2018, 1 in 7 people in Singapore have experienced a mental disorder. This implies that a portion of our labour force is, has been, and will be dealing with mental health conditions in the span of their careers. However, only 51% of firms have put in place mental wellness programmes, and a worrying 38% do not foresee any programmes being established.
Perhaps seeing the numbers associated with mental health in the workplace will make the issue more “real”, enabling businesses to “see” the effects of this invisible illness and comprehend the benefits of treating good mental health as a business asset. According to Harvard Business Review, every US$1 invested in workplace mental health yields US$4 in return. It can lead to increased work productivity, better organizational performances, and lower employee turnovers. To harness these benefits, here are some tips to begin addressing mental health issues on an organizational level:
Raise Awareness, Encourage Conversations
People are afraid of what they don’t understand.
To date, there is still a social stigma attached to mental health conditions. It stems from ignorance, a lack of understanding, and misguided views. Bringing awareness to mental health in the workplace opens up avenues for discussion, understanding, and acceptance.
Businesses could start by providing employees with access to educational and other relevant resources regarding mental health. Taking it a step further, in-house mental wellness programmes could be developed. However, for all these initiatives to succeed, it is necessary to create a work environment that is open to talking about mental health issues. Only by doing so can these issues be destigmatized, and people will be more willing to access available support when necessary.
Provide Management with Training Workshops
It is important for managers to recognise that every employee is unique. Some have greater resilience while others require more support when things are not going well. Providing management with training workshops enables managers to understand that there are systematic variances in people’s behaviours, thought processes, and how they feel.
In Singapore, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) has rolled out Mental Health Workplace Programmes that companies could apply for. It aims to equip managers and human resource officers with knowledge and ability to care for themselves, and others. Through such training workshops, managers will gain the ability to tailor their support approaches from employee to employee.
Optimising the Organisational Culture
The 21st century flaunts a multi-generational workforce – Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. These generations bring a diversity of ideas, values, and working styles that require different approaches, accommodations, and resources. Employers today must take into account the mental health needs of these various generations, and build a culture that embraces such diversity. After all, poor organisational culture is a substantial factor contributing to mental health issues.
The topic of mental health should not be shunned, stigmatized, or forsaken. Treating good mental health as a business asset not only allows organizations to reap benefits, it also creates a work environment where people will genuinely feel comfortable and happy to work in. At the end of the day, it is important to remember that we’re only human. We all go through struggles, whether visible or not. For that reason, it’s okay not to be okay.