A thriving workplace can be synonymous with stress, but it does not have to. As World Mental Health Day comes around on 10 October, the spotlight falls on the growing toll of problems like depression and anxiety disorders and their impact on our society and economy.

A recent study led by the World Health Organization estimates that mental health problems cost the global economy US$1 trillion each year in lost productivity.

“At the moment, we would say there is not a very high level of acceptance towards mental health in Singapore and Singaporean workplaces,” noted Mr Scott Carlon-Tozer, Global General Manager for MindFit at Work. The corporate well-being company provides programmes to prevent stress and improve resilience, and has worked with companies such as Chubb and Hermès in Singapore.

“There is still a fairly high level of stigma associated with mental health in general and a fear of perceived repercussions that we see in the workplace,” Mr Carlon-Tozer explained. “However, we are starting to see some positive changes.”

These changes are driven by a growing awareness about and improving attitudes towards mental illness. In particular, good worklife balance and workplace policies that support employees’ lifestyle are prerequisites for today’s generation of workers, and companies are beginning to respond to these needs.


Taking the lead on mental health 

As attitudes shift, what are some ways that employers and employees alike can improve mental wellness in the workplace? “The most important aspect of creating a culture that is supportive of mental health in the workplace is having leaders who exemplify supportive behaviours,” said Mr Carlon-Tozer. Once management breaks the mental health taboo, corporate initiatives can help address and correct the issue. 

At NORD/LB, CapitaGreen, lunch-time talks have been introduced this year to spread knowledge on several health topics, and the bank is looking to expand the scope of these talks to cover mental health-related areas such as managing stress.

Risk factors for mental health problems at work often relate to stressful organisational interactions and a lack of personal connections. To counter this, NORD/LB has created opportunities for socialising and play, setting aside fun spaces in its office, such as the foosball table in its pantry.

Biopharmaceutical firm Ferring, Capital Tower, takes the concept of playing together even further. In line with its philosophy, “People come first at Ferring”, the office sets aside one Friday each month for two hours of team games that build team spirit, collaboration and creativity. “These activities encourage employees to get out of their comfort zone and also promote the company’s values in a fun way,” said Ms Annie Chin, Ferring’s Cluster Director for Southeast Asia. 

Beyond connection and emotional support, one of the most effective ways to improve mental health is by staying active. People who exercise not only feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night and feel sharper, they are also more relaxed and positive. Exercise has even been proven to treat mild to moderate depression.

Companies can make it easier for busy executives to fit exercise into their schedules simply by organising physical activities. For example, Ferring holds customised workout sessions once a month, to give employees the chance to discover activities such as Pilates, yoga, cardio dance and kickboxing, and to help them wind down and relieve stress from work.

Self-care is key

As attitudes towards mental health change and workplaces recognise its importance, workers should also learn to take time off to tend to their own mental well-being. It’s all about putting yourself first, for a change. Instead of taking a day off to run errands, use it for self-care and focus on nourishing yourself, putting aside your responsibilities and “should dos”.

Remember, it’s not selfish to take some time off, or to leave the kids to your other half while you take a spa day or catch up with old friends. You’ll come back rejuvenated, raring for action and probably working even better than you did before. Be honest about what you really want  to do with your time, but treat it more as a reward than a day off, and give yourself a chance to nurture your emotional, mental and spiritual health.

Check out Capital Tower's Wellness Offerings 

Good mental health means setting aside time for self-care. To this end, CapitaLand has introduced a suite of wellness solutions for you at Capital Tower. Sitting at your desk all day can result in back pains, but Total Health Chiropractic’s treatments can help you improve your posture. And if you are short on time but would love a quick lunch-time treat, PepperMinted’s speedy massage and facial treatments are just for you.

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