Mental well-being has been a forefront concern on the nation’s agenda recently, with the outbreak of the pandemic highlighting the vulnerabilities of employees as they struggle with various stressors in the workplace.
Many employees believe that more can be done by their companies to establish a safer and more conducive working environment, reveals the NTUC LearningHub (NTUC LHUB)’s Mental Wellness at the Workplace Report 2021, which seek to investigate perceptions regarding mental well-being at the workplace in Singapore.
With mental wellness defined by employees (84%) as the ‘ability to cope with stresses of daily life, including work-related stress’, the report details findings from an online poll conducted with 200 employees in Singapore.
While companies should strive to actively promote good mental well-being at the workplace, more than three in five employees revealed that their mental wellness at work has been either ‘fair’, ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ in the last 12 months. Nearly half of them report feeling constantly stressed due to ‘poor work-life balance’ (52%) or ‘feeling undervalued’ at work (51%).
More than eight in ten employees indicate that their state of mental well-being at work has either remained consistent or worsened since the start of COVID-19, with the top reasons being that of ‘heavier workload’ (64%), ‘decreased job security’ (54%) and ‘blurred lines between work and personal life’ (52%).
According to employees, having poor mental well-being at work ‘reduces motivation to do tasks well’ (69%), ‘decreases productivity’ (68%) and ‘affects decision making’ (60%).
Existing Stigma and Engaging in Presenteeism and Leaveism
With the majority of employees (79%) recognising the existence of a stigma surrounding mental wellness and well-being issues at the workplace, around three in five employees voice discomfort towards discussing issues regarding their mental wellness at work, with the ‘fear of being perceived differently’ (60%) being the key reason inhibiting discussions on mental wellness at work.
Instead, employees engage in ‘presenteeism’ and ‘leaveism’. More than half of employees (58%) engage in leaveism, working outside official office hours or even on their leave days to catch up on work.
In the case of presenteeism, 40% of employees reveal reporting to work even though they were feeling unwell in order to cope with the workload and deadlines.
In order to reduce such company cultural practices, the key solution raised by employees was to ‘build trust and open communication’ (60%) between their employers and themselves.
More Initiatives to Safeguard Employee Wellness Needed
Most employees believe that their companies could do more to safeguard their mental wellness, with more than half (54%) of them being ‘not really satisfied’ or ‘not satisfied at all’ with the current mental wellness initiatives by their company.
In fact, issues related to mental wellness at the workplace are ‘not discussed regularly with employees’ (58%), ‘not being well understood by managers or HR’ (46%), or ‘not taken seriously at all’ (44%). This shows that companies and their leaders need to place an increasing emphasis on the value of employees’ mental wellness.
Commenting on the findings, President of the Healthcare Services Employees’ Union, and Chairman of NTUC LHUB’s Healthcare Academy, K. Thanaletchimi, says “In this current era of uncertainty, workers are faced with many challenges in relation to family and work, which are key facets of their lives.
“While striving to do their best at the workplace to secure a livelihood, many are forced to compromise on achieving a work-life balance.
“Therefore, employers are in the best position to provide assurance beyond job security, but also ensuring there are initiatives in place to advance employees’ overall welfare and well-being at work.”
According to Soh Hooi Peng, NTUC LHUB’s Director of Strategy, Special Projects and Corporate Development, “Demands at work have increased as companies navigate through the transformed business landscape.
“As a result, employees carry additional stress as they try to cope with higher expectations and unprecedented changes at the workplace. This can lead to heavier workloads, which may result in employees spending longer hours working, thereby causing fatigue and affecting mental wellness.
“Careful consideration by employers must be taken to prevent employee burnout.”
CEO & Chief Psychologist at iGROW, Benedict Lim, elaborates, “Safeguarding mental well-being creates a workplace that is safer for everyone. In doing so, companies will be able to address the intangible aspects of work such as morale, engagement and team cohesion which contribute to work outcomes.”