Workplace productivity should take mental health into consideration as a critical aspect.
The importance of mental well-being at the workplace is a key area of focus for managers and leaders in the modern organisation. Globally, one in eight individuals are living with a mental disorder, a statistic that is mirrored in Singapore. In other words, in a workplace of 100 employees, approximately 13 would be struggling with a mental disorder. However, this estimated figure is likely an underestimation due to stigmatisation, lack of awareness, and the underdiagnosis of mental disorders.
It is only fitting for managers to appreciate the relevance of employees’ mental health in the workplace as we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental disorders should be treated just as seriously as physical ailments like a broken limb or a viral infection. Aside from being a basic human right, mental health should be recognised as a vital factor that affects productivity in the workplace.
According to data from the World Health Organisation, mental disorders are responsible for a staggering US$2.5 trillion loss in the global economy due to the impact of mental illness on productivity in 2010. Alarmingly, this figure is projected to increase to an astounding US$6
trillion by 2030. In Singapore, the annual cost of productivity loss related to mental health is estimated to be at S$1.7 billion.
The economic burden of mental disorders cannot be ignored. As such, organisations must prioritise employees’ mental well-being. Let’s dive into some practical ways managers, business leaders, and HR personnel can ensure that their employees stay mentally healthy and productive. To get us started, here’s a quick tip sheet that cleverly reminds us why we should truly MIND our business:
Misconceptions about mental health are widespread. One common fallacy is the belief that mental disorders are solely confined to the mind. However, experts are starting to recognise the role of gastrointestinal health, the gut-brain connection, and its link to anxiety, stress, or even depression. Nutrition also plays a significant part in mental health as what you eat may affect your brain’s neurochemical balance which may have implications for mood disorders like anxiety or depression.
Another misconception is that employees with mental health challenges are a burden to the organisation. Yet, notable figures like Olympic medalist Michael Phelps and tech leaders Bill Gates and Elon Musk openly discuss their mental health journeys. Mental disorders, as labels, are not predictors of productivity or talent.
In diverse workplaces, managers must navigate mental health while considering various cultural backgrounds and beliefs which is why promoting the values of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) are crucial. Employees from diverse backgrounds may face additional stressors, such as discrimination and microaggressions. To navigate these challenges, empathetic and mindful leaders must step forward and advocate for employees from diverse backgrounds. It is imperative for managers to support these employees and create an environment where concerns related to prejudice or discrimination are not only addressed but also actively prevented.
Burnout, a common workplace issue, can stem from various domains within the workplace: workload, control, reward, community, fairness, and values. To effectively identify sources of burnout, managers should start asking key questions like:
Addressing these questions can help uncover the root causes of burnout.
Additionally, to create a workplace where employees can mentally thrive, education and awareness are vital. Managers and leaders must develop the knowledge and awareness of mental health-related signs before they develop. Preventative strategies protect both employee well-being and organisational productivity. Importantly, fostering empathy, acceptance, and a non-judgmental environment is crucial. Employees need to feel safe when seeking help.
Leaders have great influence over the culture of the organisation; therefore, it is important for leaders to cultivate compassion in the workplace. There is evidence from research psychologists suggesting that the practice of compassion towards oneself (i.e. self-compassion) is a predictor of good mental health. It is easy for leaders to bask in the glory of their employee’s success, but it is equally important for them to help employees bounce back from failures and setbacks through mindful reflection in a safe and judgement-free environment. This is much needed in the Singapore work culture given the “zero tolerance” attitude we have towards failure and mistakes.
Additionally, mid-career crises can occur when employees’ personal goals don’t align with their job or the organisation’s values. This is where compassionate mentorship comes into play. Open dialogues and conversations can help align employees’ values with their roles, fostering a renewed sense of meaning and purpose. Employers should also ensure that mental health resources are readily accessible, including providing access to online mental health screening tools, counselling services, stress management workshops, and providing employees with the flexibility to take mental health leave when needed.
In conclusion, prioritising mental health is not just a corporate responsibility but a fundamental necessity for a thriving workplace. Managers, HR professionals, and business leaders play pivotal roles in creating environments where employees can flourish both mentally and professionally. It is important to recognise that these four steps to MIND your business represent some basic steps that managers and leaders can take to safeguard the overall well-being of their employees. By taking these steps, we can aspire to a future where workplaces are characterised by empathy, inclusivity, and a deeper commitment to the holistic well-being of every individual, fostering not only healthier employees but also more resilient organisations.
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