Managers should be trained to care for staff's well-being

I applaud Ms Anthea Ong for leading a work group to boost the emotional wellness of staff (Taking care of workers' mental health; July 8).

It is a move which could also improve job satisfaction and productivity.

However, employers cannot only rely on counselling agencies to help their employees.

Managers and supervisors should also be trained to care for the well-being of their staff.

Many companies engage external counselling agencies to provide an employee assistance programme for those with depression and anxieties over work, or difficulties in relating to colleagues or family members.

Others also engage counselling agencies to provide a critical incident stress debriefing after workplace deaths and accidents.

These individual or group debriefing sessions give affected employees a "safe place" to express their grief and loss and cope with the shock and disruption to their lives.

However, employees might still be reluctant to receive help from their employers.

Those facing personal issues might not want to be referred for counselling due to the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health issues, a lack of awareness of mental health conditions and the misconception that counselling might be a "corrective action" imposed by the company.

Those facing work stress might also feel that counselling is insufficient in resolving their problems, especially if the stress was triggered by poor communication by their superiors.

For example, if an employee confides in his superior about his depression and difficulties in coping with work and is told to consider changing jobs for a better fit - such a response, which is meant well, may unintentionally make matters worse for the employee, who now has to worry about losing his job.

Therefore, managers and supervisors play a pivotal role in enhancing their employees' mental health at work.

They need to be trained to support staff in emotional distress.

Employees are more likely to be receptive to professional counselling when they experience acceptance and support from their managers.

Moving ahead, I hope that the work group will consider collaboration with counselling agencies not only in providing counselling services, but also in training managers and supervisors to care for their staff's well-being.

Ruth Chua (Ms)

Executive Director

Counselling and Care Centre

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2018, with the headline 'Managers should be trained to care for staff's well-being'. Print Edition | Subscribe