How are you feeling today?
This was the question posed by guest speaker, Ms Anthea Ong, inviting viewers to look inwards before she began her session, ‘Mental Health is Workforce Health in COVID-19’ on 11 June 2020 via the Zoom Webinar platform. She explained that that pandemics have been known to trigger new psychiatric symptoms in healthy individuals, and aggravate those with pre-existing mental health issues and it is important to be in touch with one’s emotions.
“Mental health is a continuum, and we are all navigating along this continuum,” the Nominated Member of Parliament and founder of Hush Teabar elaborated. “Because we have all experienced loss, major life changes, been marginalised, and felt like a failure. [Mental health] They are not exclusive to certain types of people in society”
The prevalence of individuals suffering from mental health in Singapore is sobering – nearly 50% of employees have reported a decline in mental health since the onset of COVID-19. One out of seven Singaporeans experience mental health issues, and 85% of those employed do not seek help due to various factors such as social stigma. Recognising the importance of good mental health in the workplace, the Workwell Leaders Work Group – consisting of C-suite leaders from various organisations, was formed in 2018 to spearhead workplace mental wellbeing as a priority. This community aims to incite change in their respective organisations through the sharing of best practices and cross-sector collaboration.
Many organisations have also come to realise the importance of mental wellbeing of their staff. From access to online meditation applications, check-in sessions with healthcare professionals and informative webinars, Ms Ong shared some practical and creative ways in which organisations have adopted to help support their employees during this unprecedented and unusual times, and encouraged others to look into introducing such practices in their organisations as well.
Organisations looking to support their employees in terms of mental wellbeing, Ms Ong suggested four “C”s: Care – Conduct check-ins on employees, Clarity – Be clear and transparent in communications and expectations, Compassion – Listen and provide help whenever possible, and Creativity – Experiment with different ways of dealing with “the new normal”. Urging viewers to continue supporting one another, she said: “Every employee is a member of society, and by looking out for their needs, you are improving society as a whole.”
When asked on how one can overcome the guilt of working from home, Ms Ong empathised that it is normal to feel that way due to having to juggle different roles at home.. She stated that it is important to acknowledge such emotions and unpack them with a trusted confidant.
She also shared some tips for caregivers during the pandemic season and beyond. She said: “Be kind to yourself. Get a community of caregivers which can support you like such as the Caregiving Welfare Association and Caregivers Alliance” She also touched on the importance of intentionally making time for oneself as it is not possible to pour from an empty cup.
Ms Ong also left some parting words, urging viewers to break the misconception that people who experience mental health issues cannot be successful in their jobs. Rather, by making certain workplace adjustments to support the mental wellbeing of employees, it would result in higher productivity and reduced number of sick leave in the organisation as a whole.