SINGAPORE - Bosses should take the lead in talking about mental health in the workplace, as they can create greater awareness and shape discussions in a positive manner, said Workplace Safety and Health Council (WSH) chairman John Ng.
Mr Ng, who was speaking during a panel discussion with tripartite leaders at the Singapore WSH Conference on Wednesday (Nov 18), said: "When we speak, our staff, our people, listen. So when the conversation continues, the positive language we use and the encouragement that we put in place for us to talk about mental health, will very soon cascade down to various levels of leadership."
He added: "To me, it is about listening to them, knowing what to say to them, knowing what not to say to them. And also, when they need help, help must be available to them."
Managers, too, should be trained to spot signs and symptoms associated with mental health issues, he said.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Manpower, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) released a tripartite advisory providing guidance and resources on mental wellness.
It called on companies to recognise the need for their staff to have adequate rest outside work hours, by establishing a work-life harmony policy offering clarity on after-hours work communication.
Mr Ng said the advisory was timely, and the WSH Council will be ramping up discussions on mental health at the workplace.
On Wednesday, NTUC assistant secretary-general Melvin Yong, who was also part of the panel at the virtual conference with Mr Ng, said tripartism will need to be "even tighter" as the world is evolving rapidly and the nature of work is changing.
The future workplace will be one that is smarter, more manpower-lean, and more connected, he said.
For example, artificial intelligence will eventually lead to the mundane jobs being phased out, while improvements in connectivity such as the 5G networks will increase the possibilities for remote working, he added.
SNEF vice-president Douglas Foo, who was also on the panel, said while Singapore is going through a challenging period, tripartism has given Singapore a leg-up, with the latest advisory coming in helpful for many enterprises in managing mental health at the workplace.