Improving mental health at work starts with increasing awareness

Besides providing access to mental health support, employers must also demonstrate a greater commitment to employee wellbeing.
By: | July 4, 2024

It would appear Singapore’s workforce continues to represent some of the unhappiest employees in Asia.

With nearly half of Singapore’s workforce already feeling the most unpaid in the Asia-Pacific region, the recently released TELUS Mental Health Index has also revealed that 47% of employees feel mentally and/or physical exhausted at the end of their workday.

This is especially prevalent among younger employees, as Haider Amir, Director Asia, TELUS Health, told HRM Asia, “Singaporean employees, especially younger ones, are showing higher rates of stress, anxiety and burnout, and there are much more employees at high risk compared to pre-COVID levels. Younger employees are nearly twice as employees over 50 to end their workday feeling mentally and/or physically exhausted, indicating that younger employees may be more likely to suffer burnout.”

This, suggested Haider, should serve as a “wake-up call” for organisations that employees are feeling isolated and helpless.

While there is now more discussion on the importance of employee mental health, organisations should stop paying lip service and demonstrate real commitment to improving mental health in the workplace.

Worryingly, TELUS Health found that 77% of employees are either unaware of Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), or their employers simply do not offer any. “These employees reported mental health scores at least three points lower than employees with access to an EAP,” said Haider.

“There is a direct correlation between genuine mental health and wellbeing support and better levels of absenteeism and presenteeism, which in turn results in better engagement and productivity.”

EAP services, he added, provide psychological counselling and other services intended to serve as preventative measures for stress, anxiety and burnout. In a pre-EAP and post-EAP comparison of work productivity, EAP users gain approximately 21 hours of increased productivity per month (or 36 working days a year).

“The need for EAP services and mental health support is, therefore, not a ‘nice to have’ – rather it is a commercial imperative,” said Haider, while acknowledging that organisations simply must do more to raise awareness of EAPs and other mental health support for employees.

He continued, “It’s time for employers to take a more proactive approach to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. Besides providing resources such as an EAP, they also need to ensure employees know how and when to take advantage of them, as even the best resources can’t help if people don’t know they exist.”

READ MORE: Mental health at work: Building an engaged and healthy workforce

The human touch can also be a vital tool in boosting employee wellbeing. Managers, for instance, can be better trained to recognise the signs of stress and burnout in employees, and equipped with the right tools to address these issues.

In the long term, this will contribute to a healthier workforce, which can only be beneficial to organisations, who are ready to invest in their employees’ wellbeing today.

“Changing workplace culture takes time, but encouraging active and pre-emptive engagement with EAP services can strongly contribute to a mentally healthier workforce,” Haider concluded.

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