TL;DR – Take breaks where possible to recharge, fit in some exercise, learn how to “switch off” from work.
There is no doubt that the prolonged pandemic has taken a toll on workers. A recent Straits Times article cited a survey by software company Oracle that 70% of residents in Singapore said that this year has been their most stressful year at work. 50% of those they surveyed felt that they were struggling with their mental health at work more this year as compared to last year.
The 2021 Work Trend Index, a study by Microsoft and LinkedIn, also surfaced findings on how the changes that workers have had to adapt to because of remote working have caused mental stress and burnout. Workers were spending as much as 2.5x more in online meetings while the average time spent in meetings also increased. The average number of online chats respondents sent per week increased by 45% and the number of average chats sent by respondents after office hours increased by 42%. This led to 49% of respondents feeling exhausted and 58% feeling overworked.
These statistics do not come as a surprise, given how easy it is for workers who work from home to have blurred lines between work and life. With many workers also juggling family commitments apart from the pressures at work, this pandemic has certainly made this period tougher on them.
This extended impact of social isolation is further exacerbated by the dynamically-changing dining out and social gathering restrictions as well as vaccine-differentiated measures.
Employers play an important role
Employers are pivotal in the the fight against burnout and the pandemic taking a toll on the mental wellbeing of employees. Employers need to understand the complexities that remote working brings with it and that burnout and the mental state of workers affects their productivity.
To encourage employers to recognise mental health in the workplace as a growing concern, the Tripartite Advisory on Mental Well-being at Workplaces, helmed jointly by the Ministry of Manpower, the National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore National Employers Federation previously pushed out several recommendations.
Recommendations include supporting
- Individual employees though:
- Appointing wellness champions to raise awareness of mental health conditions
- Providing access to counselling services
- Considering letting employees claim their flexible employe benefits for mental wellness programmes, consultations and treatments
2) Teams or departments through:
- Training managers/supervisors to spot signs of mental distress
- Fostering a physiologically safe and trusting work environment by having open and regular conversations on mental health
- Strengthening support systems at the workplace
3) The organisation through:
- Regular checking in on employee’s mental state
- Reviewing HR policies to ensure hiring practices, workplace practices and performance management systems are non-discriminatory and merit-based in nature
- Implementing flexible work arrangements (FWA) to help employees better balance work and personal demands
- Establishing a work-life harmony policy to provide clarity on after-hours work communication
These recommendations provide practical guidance on how companies can adopt these measures to help support the mental wellbeing of their staff.
The right to disconnect – gatekeeping your mental wellbeing
Labour MP Melvin Yong had previously mooted the concept of a “Right To Disconnect” law in Parliament on several occasions. Similar to how France implements this legislation, a “Right To Disconnect” law would allow for employers and employees to negotiate the protocol for non-emergency calls and non-critical emails, outside of working hours.
“This shows an understanding of the need to rest properly in order to have the energy to work hard and be productive again the next day.” Labour MP Melvin Yong
This Right To Disconnect would help workers gatekeep their mental wellbeing by letting them disconnect from non-essential and non-critical work outside of office hours. This in turn forces them to have work-life segregation, protects them from unreasonable work demands and reduces burnout.Time will tell whether we see this legislation in place to stipulate dedicated breaks for employees.
Looking after your own mental wellbeing
As workers, we also need to be responsible for our own mental wellbeing – take breaks where possible to recharge, fit in some exercise, learn how to “switch off” from work, seek resources to help better manage stress etc.
So the next time you are tempted to continue trudging through work when you are already burnt out, remind yourself that – Your Mind Matters.
Looking for more information about mental wellness? Join in an honest conversation about mental well-being this Sunday 28th Nov at 2pm to find out how to take better care of yourself and others around you.