Wellbeing and Mental Health

World Mental Health Day: How a collaborative approach to well-being can lead to a healthier workforce

Mental health is a shared societal responsibility.

Mental health is a shared societal responsibility. Image: Freepik.

Evelyn Loh
Director, Ministry of Manpower/Occupational Safety and Health Policy, Government of Singapore
Ruma Bhargava
Lead, Mental Health, World Economic Forum
Lim Chevi Way
Manager, MOM/Occupational Safety and Health Policy, Goverment of Singapore
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Mental Health

This article is part of: Centre for Health and Healthcare

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  • The repercussions of depression and anxiety extend beyond individuals, significantly impacting businesses and the global economy.
  • The imperative lies in addressing mental health challenges within the workforce, considering nearly 2 billion people worldwide are affected.
  • Employers can harness the opportunity to enhance employee health, although collaborative efforts from stakeholders are needed to improve well-being.

A thriving workforce is a precious asset for any organization, driving heightened productivity, reduced absenteeism, and diminished healthcare expenses. Yet, the contemporary work milieu presents distinct challenges to employees' physical and mental health across various industries.

The repercussions extend beyond individuals, significantly impacting businesses and the global economy. Depression and anxiety result in an astounding reduction of 12 billion working days annually, incurring a colossal cost of $1 trillion due to lost productivity.

The imperative lies in addressing mental health challenges within the workforce, considering nearly 2 billion people worldwide are affected. This provides an exceptional opportunity for employers to enhance employee health, yielding societal benefits and substantial returns on investment.

To help actualize this, the World Economic Forum launched the Mental Health in the Workplace initiative, a collaborative effort encompassing diverse stakeholders, including government bodies, employers, insurers, healthcare entities, international organizations, and civil society. The initiative aims to devise a globally scalable platform that synthesizes evidence-based holistic solutions, promoting employee health and societal resilience across different sectors and demographics.

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Government initiatives: A Singaporean perspective

The Government of Singapore has demonstrated a commendable commitment to fostering mental well-being within the workforce. Collaborating closely with unions and employers, collectively known as the Tripartite Partners, they have championed a promotional approach to engage corporate leadership in investing in their employees' mental well-being.

The strategy entails a three-pronged approach: emphasizing the assessment and understanding of employees' mental well-being, targeted interventions, and continuous employee engagement.

1. Supporting mental well-being assessment

Central to addressing mental health concerns is the ability to assess and measure the mental well-being and stress levels of the workforce over time. This data allows organizations to pinpoint workplace stressors and tailor appropriate interventions. The Government of Singapore, in partnership with healthcare institutions, developed the iWorkHealth tool, a validated online psychosocial health assessment tool. This tool aids organizations in identifying workplace stressors and assessing employees' mental well-being through aggregated company and department reports, providing vital insights for tailored interventions.

2. Tailored interventions and support

Employers must then follow through with practical interventions. The iWorkHealth tool guides organizations in translating assessment insights into meaningful interventions, such as recommending third-party services like the Employee Assistance Programme. It is essential to follow up measurement with targeted actions to ensure a positive impact on mental health within the workforce.

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3. Encouraging continuous engagement

Maintaining an ongoing dialogue with employees is crucial to fostering mental well-being. The Tripartite Partners emphasize regular engagement with employees throughout their mental health journey, as achieving good mental well-being at workplaces is an ongoing and collaborative process.

Empowering employers: providing practical guidance

In addition to measurement and intervention, empowering employers with practical guidance and resources is instrumental to promoting mental well-being. The Singapore Tripartite Partners, in collaboration with the human resource community, has developed the Tripartite Advisory on Mental Well-being at Workplaces and a Playbook on Workplace Mental Well-being. These resources offer actionable guidance and templates, simplifying the process of initiating workplace initiatives to support mental well-being.

Furthermore, organizations seeking customized support can avail themselves of the Total Workplace Safety and Health Programme, benefiting from qualified consultants' recommendations on interventions to address the mental well-being needs of their employees. This inclusive approach ensures that organizations with limited resources receive essential guidance and support.

Mental Health work safety
Image: Government of Singapore.

Sustaining mental well-being: the role of culture and awareness

A culture of open communication is pivotal to maintaining mental well-being within the workplace. Regular engagement with employees fosters a safe discussion environment, allowing organizations to assess and enhance their mental health programmes continually. The Government of Singapore, recognizing the importance of awareness, initiated a year-long national workplace campaign, encouraging all stakeholders to prioritize mental well-being. Such efforts highlight the need for collective engagement and awareness to fortify mental well-being at the workplace.

Image: Government of Singapore.

Collective action on mental health

In conclusion, the mental well-being of employees is an invaluable asset that contributes to organizational productivity and overall societal health. Governments, employers, and employees must collaborate in this critical endeavour, leveraging initiatives, tools, and resources to foster mental well-being within the workforce. The success of this collaborative approach will not only bolster individual lives but also uplift businesses and contribute to a healthier global economy.

Mental health is not an isolated concern but a shared responsibility that demands collective action and unwavering commitment.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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