Call for bosses to foster positive conversations on mental health

Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Defence Zaqy Mohamad and Singapore National Employers Federation vice-president Douglas Foo (right) at the Singapore Workplace Safety and Health Conference yesterday.
Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Defence Zaqy Mohamad and Singapore National Employers Federation vice-president Douglas Foo (right) at the Singapore Workplace Safety and Health Conference yesterday.PHOTO: TRIPARTITE ALLIANCE

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 (WSH) Council chairman John Ng.

Mr Ng, who was speaking during a panel discussion with tripartite leaders at the Singapore WSH Conference yesterday, 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.

"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, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) released a tripartite advisory providing guidance and resources on mental wellness.

The advisory called on companies to recognise the need for staff to have adequate rest outside of 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.

Yesterday, NTUC assistant secretary-general Melvin Yong, who was also part of the panel at the virtual conference, 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 mundane jobs being phased out, while improvements in connectivity such as 5G networks will increase the possibilities for remote working, he added.

SNEF vice-president Douglas Foo, who was also on the panel, said that while Singapore is going through a challenging period, tripartism has given the nation a leg-up, with the latest advisory coming in helpful for many enterprises in managing mental health at the workplace.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2020, with the headline 'Call for bosses to foster positive conversations on mental health'. Subscribe