Employee Well-Being: Going Beyond Mental Wellness

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Employee well-being, especially mental wellness, has been the buzzword since the COVID-19 pandemic required employees to work from home. In response, many organizations in Singapore have enhanced their employee wellness benefits and implemented new initiatives and practices to include new online communication and listening platforms, regular check-ins with their teams, training for management to lead with empathy and look out for potential signs of mental health issues.  

As part of the recent panel discussion on Fostering Inclusive Workplaces that Support Mental Well-being and Work-Life Harmony at the ASEAN Future of Work Conference panel, Evelyn Kwek, Managing Director of Great Place to Work® ASEAN and ANZ, highlighted that focusing on mental wellness to the exclusion of other aspects of an employee’s overall well-being is not sustainable. Companies need to be mindful that people’s holistic experiences of well-being at work, including mental health, financial wellness, sense of purpose, social support, and meaningful connections contribute to their well-being in totality. Furthermore, when one or more aspects are not present, this can, and likely will, have a negative impact on their mental wellness as well.   

Many companies already have employee wellness pillars in place, and usually comprise their physical health and safety, financial wellness, mental health and emotional/social support. However, it is important to note that the concept of well-being in today’s context has evolved in scope and increasingly become a critical piece of employee experience at work. In an on-going research study on well-being, Great Place to Work®’s perspective is that an employee’s sense of purpose also contributes to their well-being—this refers to whether they feel that their work makes a difference and contributes to something “bigger”, and whether their job has special meaning, i.e. it’s not “just a job”. This determines their sense of pride in their job and adds or detracts from their overall satisfaction and even their perception of well-being.  

As such, companies today need to look at well-being holistically and not overlook the big picture by isolating and focusing on only one area, e.g. mental wellness. Here are some examples of how companies on Singapore’s Best Workplaces 2020 addressed their employees’ holistic well-being:

1. Physical health and safety

•  Amgen Singapore instituted a practice for each virtual meeting to start off with quick stretches, and stretch breaks for meetings lasting more than an hour. They also extended their support to employees’ families by delivering a series of six themed care packs containing essential hygiene products, healthy foods, and family-friendly items. 

•  PAP Community Foundation purchased 650 UV sterilizers to disinfect school supplies and toys. They also engaged 16 professional cleaning contractors to regularly disinfect all 360 Preschools, seven Senior Care centers and the headquarters. For staff who were stranded overseas, PCF revised their group hospitalization and surgical coverage, to remove geographical limitations in the event that they needed medical attention. 

2. Financial wellness

•  Micron pledged to have no layoffs for 90 days, and provided a one-time $500 reimbursement for team members to purchase whatever they needed to set up a home office. They also implemented a COVID-19 Assistance Payment scheme and invested in an employee-supported fund that provided grants of up to $5,000 to individual team members based on needs. To ensure employees’ wellness, COVID-19 safe packs and round-the-clock telemedicine services are provided to all team members and their dependents. 

•  DHL Express quickly committed to keeping all of its people employed, with no pay reduction. All employees received their annual salary increases and bonuses on time, despite worrying business performance. A one-time €300 bonus was also given to all employees globally, to help alleviate financial worries. 

3. Mental/psychological wellness

•  World Wide Technology recognized that remote work could lead to longer work days for employees without them realizing it. Employees were encouraged to build regular breaks into their day, take personal time off, leave their desks when they needed to re-charge, plan time to socialize with co-workers, and check in on one another. To alleviate stress, employees could block time out during the day to focus on their kids and not worry about work as they juggled home-schooling or childcare. 

•  Cisco offered flexible work practices, support for caregivers and generous leave options. They also expanded their Employee Assistance Program benefit to increase the number of free counseling sessions available to all employees and their immediate families. 

4. Emotional/social support

•  HP Inc. developed and maintained an HP Spirit calendar, with activities, webinars and resources built around a theme of the day to keep employees healthy, positive and productive. Employees connected from Motivation Monday—appreciating each other, expressing gratitude and practicing mindfulness—to Family and Fun Friday— including fun activities that families got to enjoy. 

•  foodpanda held a “Wellness Week” with a focus on self-care, including virtual group fitness and yoga classes, as well as talks about mental wellness and nutrition.  

•  Signify provided a series of webinars led by a trained psychologist, as well as an online yoga session, virtual team building and family activities. They also delivered surprise gifts to employees at home. 

5. Sense of purpose

•  DHL Express pivoted towards prioritizing the delivery of critical medical supplies. It worked with local government agencies and the Singapore Red Cross to package and deliver PPE supplies to frontline healthcare workers, and care packages to vulnerable groups, including migrant workers and the elderly.    

•  Medtronic worked with Temasek Foundation in Singapore to provide more than 330 ventilators regionally, and responded to urgent calls by donating more than USD$1.5 million in PPE supplies to hospitals across APAC. 

While the emphasis on caring for employees’ mental wellness was heightened due to the pandemic, companies today have come to realize the critical role it plays to attract, retain and sustain talent. Companies will do well to take a whole person approach in designing well-being policies, programs and practices, and take into account employees’ evolving needs and aspirations. How have Best Workplaces demonstrated care and creativity to support employee well-being? Learn more about this by downloading the report here. 

Look out for our upcoming research report on well-being in Singapore, which will be launched in the later part of the year. 

Pamela Sng

Pamela is our Senior Consultant and Research Lead for Great Place to Work® ASEAN and ANZ. She has over two decades of consulting and policy experience helping organizations in their journey to become fair and progressive employers. She believes that every organization has the potential to be a great workplace, and works with data to distil insights and develop resources to help them. When she’s not burrowing down the rabbit hole of numbers and words, she’s probably immersed in a new K-drama or catching up with friends over a virtual drinks session.

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To be eligible for the World’s Best Workplaces list, a company must apply and be named to a minimum of 5 national Best Workplaces lists within our current 58 countries, have 5,000 employees or more worldwide, and at least 40% of the company’s workforce (or 5,000 employees) must be based outside of the home country. Extra points are given based on the number of countries where a company surveys employees with the Great Place to Work Trust Index©, and the percentage of a company’s workforce represented by all Great Place to Work surveys globally. Candidates for the 2017 Worlds Best Workplaces list will have appeared on national workplaces lists published in September 2016 through August 2017.