Every Business is a Health Business.

Updated: Feb 15, 2021

For the first time in history, every employee in Singapore has faced the same workplace challenge; a global pandemic. Working from home has contested the very foundations of workplace culture, and left everyone from top-level C-Suite Managers to Junior Admin Clerks feeling stuck in an endless vacuum.

Mental fog and pandemic fatigue are now as much a part of the daily work experience as the job itself. In Singapore, where productivity is considered the pinnacle of working well, employees are sliding into 2021 feeling disjointed, disconnected, and overwhelmed by the endless wait of when, if ever, things will return to normal.

Across the spectrum people are returning to work exhausted, burnt-out, and over-stretched. Work and life have become a blur - a grey zone of household chores, home schooling, stress, over-drive productivity, and extreme problem solving. Public wellbeing is at an all-time low, and employees are feeling the strain of returning to work.

Yet, to survive the pandemic and the effects Covid-19 has had on the economy, businesses in Singapore are looking to get back to the exceptional levels of productivity Singapore is known for. Companies need their employees to perform at their very best, however, there is now a strong conflict between the productivity needs of businesses, and the wellness needs of workers in all industries.

Mental Health is Moving Towards Normalisation in Asia

During the lockdown circuit breaker period, it came the foreground that Singapore did not consider mental health services to be essential. This sparked an online revolution to normalise mental health in Asia, to encourage people to open up about their mental and emotional struggles.

Companies such as Calm Collective, founded by Sabrina Ooi, Alyssa Reinos and Luqman Mohamed, are seeking ways to bring mental health into the digital platform. The objective behind Calm Collective's initiative is to spark conversations for reform by hosting monthly talks on the issues and stigma surrounding mental health, particularly in Asia where mental health topics are widely considered taboo.

The rapid growth of mental health awareness in Asia is providing a catalyst for start-ups, who are seeing high demand from corporate organisations looking to incorporate mental wellness into the work environment post Covid-19.

Online platforms as Safe Space, which connects users to qualified mental health specialists, attracted over US $250,000 in crowdfunding investment. The rapid growth of online mental health practitioners in Asia has created a new digital ecosystem where people can gain fast, confidential access to mental help, without facing perceived feelings of repercussion or stigma. Digital accessibility is fuelling a greater understanding of mental wellness at a grass roots level within Asian society, and is now driving a shift in attitude towards feeling well.

The After-effects of Covid-19 are Causing an Important Paradigm Shift in the Role Workplace Wellness Plays in Productivity in Singapore.

Leadership has been tested to develop soft skills.

In a survey conducted by LinkedIn, it was found that 69% of C-Suite Executives who lead high-yield companies with a turnover exceeding £250-million per annum, believe steering their teams through Covid-19 has been the biggest challenge they have ever faced in their careers.

Of the 700+ top-level senior managers surveyed, the majority reported they felt most weighed-down by consistent self-doubt. Not having all the answers, being forced to rely on their gut instincts, putting on a brave face, and feeling overwhelmed by the demands of digital leadership has left managers feeling exhausted.

According to the LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Index, 59% of all employees have suffered a decline in their mental health during the pandemic. Of those surveyed, 41% report increased stress, 37% say they are unable to switch off from work at home, and 25% regularly suffer from imposter syndrome.

Leaders and Their Employees Have Been Forced to Develop Closer Relationships.

The pandemic has highlighted the essential role emotional intelligence plays in strong leadership. Line managers in a home working world have been encouraged to re-evaluate their management style. Many managers have emerged with a greater propensity for compassion and empathy, with a people-first approach to management.

Employees have developed a greater understanding of the pressures of leadership in uncertain times. In the LinkedIn survey, 72% of leaders reported they've found employees to be softer, kinder, and nicer to work with during the pandemic.

Mental health has become a shared concern for employees and C-Suite leaders.

The shared community experience of home working, while juggling the pressures of everyday life with workplace wellness, is breaking down the stigma attached to mental health in a productive workspace environment. There is now a new and common thread between organisations, line managers and employees. Each party has been forced to adapt with a shared uncertainty.

Those who were previously separated by their differences in responsibility and seniority have survived the challenges of digital working together. Now, more than ever, employees, Line Managers, C-Suite Executives, and the organisations they work for, feel united in their common need for human connection and solidarity.

How Are Companies in Singapore Reinventing Themselves?

Successful organisations are redesigning their framework for efficiency by placing employee wellbeing at the centre of their organisational structure and values. Wellness is no longer an employee incentive, but now plays an active and vital role in realigning the common objectives shared by employees and organisations alike.

Wellness at work is no longer just for multinational companies with large corporate budgets.

Companies of all shapes across Singapore are reimagining their business model, with employees taking centre stage. There has been a steady innovation in m-health, with new tech apps that focus on mental health and physical wellness showing rapid growth worldwide.

In December 2020, Singapore-based start-up app, Intellect, co-founded by Theodoric Chew, surpassed a million users. When interviewed by The TechCrunch, Chew said:

“In terms of larger trends, we’ve seen a huge spike in companies across the region having mental health and wellbeing of their employees being prioritised on their agenda... In terms of user trends, we see a significantly higher utilisation in work stress and burnout, anxiety and relationship-related programs.”

Key stakeholders are coming together in new ways to provide holistic support for employee wellness. Lead by HR, there is now a wider network of facilities and support-based services available to ensure workplace wellness for leadership and employees.

Teams from Health and Safety, Rewards and Benefits, Compensation, Facilities, and C-Level Management are crossing over to seek-out innovative ways to implement wellbeing across the workforce. Total Rewards and Wellbeing Management are now at the heart of company objectives.

C-Suite Executives, SME Managers and Start-Up Entrepreneurs are understanding the importance of adopting a well-rounded approach to workplace wellness, which involves assessing and facilitating employee wellbeing in five core areas:

1. Mental and Emotional Health

Line Managers have the power to control employees, and to define or dictate their work day experience either positively or negatively. Some employees are working long days, and feel pressured to maintain an 'always available' approach. Others have experienced an increase in positive support with an upbeat attitude, which has developed a greater enjoyment for their work.

Alongside the pressures of juggling homeworking with home schooling, and learning to collaborate in a digital workplace environment, many employees still fear the pandemic itself. People are worried about returning to work safely after being at home for so long, and some fear the social pressures of reintegrating back into a busy society.

The result is a deep-felt fatigue, with unprecedented levels of emotional exhaustion, which is compounded by shifting uncertainty and financial strain. Open communication is key to supporting mental and emotional health in the workplace.

Employees should be given a safe space to feel heard, without judgement or repercussions. Line Managers should schedule regular 1:1 catchup sessions with employees, to see how they are doing, and to encourage relaxed connections at work.

Companies need to recognise the pressures felt by those managers who are required to provide all the answers, and to always appear in control despite the unprecedented workplace stress. HR should hold regular support meetings for C-Suite Executives and Line Managers, to ensure they feel equipped and supported in their roles.

Organisations should provide professional support to those who are struggling with their mental or emotional health. Mental health counsellors should be readily available to provide confidential support to employees at all levels, with a dedicated assistance programme in place to break down the barriers surrounding mental and emotional wellness at work.

2. Social Connection

The pandemic has raised awareness of our inherent human need to connect with others, which has had a double-edged effect on employees. Those who live alone are struggling with extreme loneliness, while those who have partners and children are feeling smothered with very little escape from the demands of family-life.

Most employees use their time at work to diversify human connection, expand social circles, make friends, and feel a sense of belonging. This small but essential emotional outlet has been shut down during lockdown, with severe and lasting consequences on employee wellbeing.

Companies need to find new ways to re-connect employees virtually, and to simulate the informal office chat and after-work social events that employees have missed during the pandemic. Online games nights, virtual quizzes, informal catchups, digital social events, and flexible collaboration, are just as important to employee wellness as having the right tools available to perform their job.

3. Financial Stability

The economic uncertainty has compounded the stress felt during the pandemic. Redundancies are rife, and many employees have taken pay cuts or faced furlough, with no guarantee they will be able to return to their jobs with full pay in the future.

Our post-pandemic world is non-linear, so many employees are now experiencing high levels of fear and uncertainty. Those in the 35 to 44-year old age bracket who have childcare needs are most likely to suffer from increased anxiety, while those in a period of career growth are worried about their future prospects.

As we move into a new normal, companies are becoming more open to talking about money worries without stigma, so that employees can voice their concerns to reach a viable solution for their personal finances. Financial compensation has become more fluid, and easier to tailor around individual circumstances.

4. Physical Wellness

Staying at home has reduced our capacity for residual exercise. Employees who used to take a walk to buy lunch, attend meetings in various locations across the city, or simply walk down the hall to the coffee machine every couple of hours now have a 3-minute commute from the sofa to their makeshift desk.

Previously active people with exercise integrated into busy working lives have become physically stagnant, which is accelerating aches and pains, and contributing towards the general decline in public mental health and wellness.

Companies in Singapore are adapting by facilitating online virtual fitness classes and yoga groups. Physical wellness is moving into an online space, with easy access to online medical practitioners, and readily available sleep and mindfulness apps such as Headspace.

Businesses are encouraged to challenge employees to reach daily step goals, join PE classes as a group, and take advantage of online classes offered by gyms throughout the city.

Companies are adapting by offering employees private health care, access to computerised cognitive behavioural therapy programs C-CBT, and increased occupational wellness support in the form of video GP appointments or telephone-based health assessments.

5. Digital Wellbeing

One of the biggest changes the virtual working world faces is accountability.

Employees who can't be seen feel the need to become available 24/7 to prove they are working. Instant replies, working excessive hours, and communicating with colleagues during unsociable times can hinder workplace productivity, which affects mental health and wellbeing.

Companies need to nurture the delicate balance between building a close-knit team and giving employees personal space in an online office.

The definition between casual chat and productive collaboration should be clearly defined to help employees maintain social interaction with colleagues, without becoming bogged down by round-the-clock expectations.

C-Suite Leadership for a Post Pandemic World

Mental health and wellbeing has for a long time carried a stigma in Asia. As many as 46% of young workers admitting they would feel embarrassed if they were diagnosed with a mental illness. C-Suite Executives in Singapore are in a unique position, with the opportunity to reframe corporate attitudes towards workplace wellness in the new normal.

Mental health and wellbeing has for a long time carried a stigma in Asia. As many as 46% of young workers admitting they would feel embarrassed if they were diagnosed with a mental illness. C-Suite Executives in Singapore are in a unique position, with the opportunity to reframe corporate attitudes towards workplace wellness in the new normal.

According to Rofy Park Institute, Singapore is the worst-performing Asian country when it comes to normalising mental health, with up to 70% of all workers believing there is a workplace stigma attached to poor mental health.

The pandemic has brought the mental crisis in Asia to the foreground, particularly in Singapore, where there is a strong and immediate need to navigate the social health and wellbeing issues raised during the pandemic.

C-Suite Leaders, SME Managers, and Start-Up Entrepreneurs have the ability to change the wellness landscape for Singapore. Reshaping our approach to workplace wellness in Singapore will not only raise awareness for the importance of maintaining strong mental and physical health, but will help managers navigate through the uncertainty of the post-pandemic climate with greater confidence in themselves, and their teams.

Every business is now a health business, operating in a new global environment where the health economy is dominating thought leadership and citizen thinking.

Navigating Short and Long-term Objectives in the Post-Covid Workplace

Organisations in Singapore need to chart a new course to reconnect with their employees returning to work, and to realign their employees with company objectives. Companies should seize this opportunity to reframe their approach to employees, and to place employee wellbeing at the forefront of their short-term development.

Employees, Line Managers and C-Level Executives share common issues regarding mental health, which is compounding corporate fatigue by making problem solving more challenging as time progresses. Companies need to look towards resetting their employees, to re-spark the workplace with a strong foundation built on long-term health and wellbeing.

In the long-term, organisations should be looking towards developing wellness longevity to optimise employee loyalty, company performance, workplace stamina, and general adaptability. There needs to be a shift towards collaborative management, with a greater emphasis on soft skills and positive workplace relationships.

Line Managers will play a vital role in organisational progression. As Singapore removes the barriers between employees and leadership to reduce the stigma attached to poor mental health, so Line Managers should actively take part in improving the workplace experience for all employees.

The future of business will look to Line Managers to check in regularly with their employees to assess and discuss their wellbeing, provide tools to enhance feelings of confidence and security, and to create a space for employees to openly discuss their concerns without judgement.

Employees, Line Managers and C-Suite Executives will need to work together in unison to navigate the post-Covid workplace in solidarity, as a team. Wellness Managers will play a key role in guiding businesses through the uncertainty.

As the pandemic continues to unfold, leaders must keep their employees physically and mentally safe, so they can emerge from the situation feeling psychologically well, ready to embrace the challenges and opportunities of the future.

Which Companies are Recognising the Need for Change in Singapore?

Stress and resilience filter downwards from top to bottom, which has left organisations in a state of deep fatigue, with resolve and resilience at an all-time low. Successful companies are recognising the unique balance between urgency and importance, to realign themselves with what really matters for the success of their people.

Global multinational corporations such as AstraZeneca are leading the way for business wellbeing. AstraZeneca has adopted a revolutionary approach to holistic workplace wellness that believes every healthy organisation is built on a combination of workplace health and safety, and giving employees the resources needed to develop a sense of resilience at work.

On a smaller scale, SME's such as Orion Electrotech Limited, and start-ups including Payflow, Advance.AI, and Grower Agritech, are building their foundations on established principles that recognise employee wellbeing as the vital ingredient in their long-term growth strategies.

How is The DMC Collective Reshaping Organisations for Post-Pandemic Reform?

The DMC Collective is revolutionising the way companies in Singapore implement employee wellness, by tapping into the wellness needs of organisations to deliver bespoke professional support to employees in a small, inclusive environment.

Realigning teams to restart with a spark in 2021 opens endless opportunities for teambuilding, and for developing core skills for C-Suite Leaders to adapt and adjust to the new demands of management in the post-Covid world. This builds resilience, and enhances the capacity of Line Managers to deliver positive, uplifting workplace experiences.

Is Your Business a Health Business?

How is your company coping with post-pandemic fatigue, and what strategies do you have in place to navigate through the uncertainty we now face in Singapore in the Covid-19 landscape?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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