Employee well-being

Forum: Government can set an example with mental health support at workplace

People at Raffles Place MRT station on Sept 28, 2020. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

I strongly agree with Ms Anthea Ong that mental health at the workplace must go beyond the responsibility of human resource departments (Leadership in the new normal must ensure employee well-being, Dec 25).

It must be a priority for the entire organisation and guide all decision-making.

Amid the pandemic, leaders must step up and resist the temptation to treat employee assistance programmes as band-aid solutions.

Rather, in providing additional support, they should also be willing to address more fundamental issues such as organisational culture.

Like it did with the implementation of the five-day work week to improve work-life balance back in 2004, the Government could lead the way once again in improving mental health at the workplace.

As with other industries, bureaucrats working across government ministries and statutory boards have had to deal with additional workload and pressures arising from the pandemic, on top of their business-as-usual functions.

In addition to our front-line healthcare workers, other public institutions have also adapted seamlessly to the new normal. These include the social service offices, the judiciary and our Home Team, just to name a few. They have kept things moving and shielded Singapore from the worst effects of the pandemic.

As the largest employer in Singapore, the Government could set an example by improving access to and promoting mental health support for our 146,000 or so public servants, as recommended by the Tripartite Advisory on Mental Well-being at Workplaces.

This would send a signal to businesses to prioritise the mental health of their employees as well.

In a survey of 211 people that Talk Your Heart Out recently conducted on staff well-being at the workplace (in partnership with crowdsourcing platform OPPi), some interesting findings emerged.

While 70 per cent of respondents acknowledged they "know someone at their workplace who would benefit from professional mental health and well-being support", close to 60 per cent also admitted that "my career progression might be compromised if I were to talk about my mental health at work".

These statistics, if representative of the wider population, are sobering.

Mental health, like physical health, should be a priority for everyone. Therefore, it is important to facilitate open conversations and normalise mental health support.

I believe that with the Government leading the way, other employers, big and small, will be encouraged to take the mental health of their workers seriously, too.

Shilpa Jain


Talk Your Heart Out

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 30, 2020, with the headline Forum: Government can set an example with mental health support at workplace. Subscribe