COVID-19 pandemic’s growing toll on employee mental health in Asia

Mercer Asia launches inaugural Healthy Minds at Work Assessment to help businesses review and address mental wellbeing in the workplace.


June 15, 2020 



With the COVID-19 crisis disrupting nearly every aspect of today’s work environment and taking a growing mental toll on employees globally, the urgency for companies to prioritize employee mental health has never been greater.


To help businesses in Singapore assess and address mental wellbeing in the workplace, Mercer Asia launched its   Healthy Minds at Work Assessment today.


Dr Wolfgang Siedl, Partner and Psychologist for Mercer Health & Benefits, said, “In Asia, mental health often doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Talking about it, let alone seeking help, can be a challenge. A Mercer survey of Asian businesses this February found that only 22 percent of employers were actively tackling mental health two months after the outbreak despite seeing a 26% rise in the use of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) in Asia. Clearly, more can and must be done to support employees with their mental wellbeing.”


Even before COVID-19, anxiety affected 60 million people in Southeast Asia, with close to 86 million living with depression. In Singapore, 10% of the population alone suffers from anxiety and depression[1]. The growing scale and severity of the pandemic is expected to take a greater psychological toll on employees, ignited by social isolation and a perfect storm of stressors, including job insecurity, financial instability and remote work. A recent global study by SAP and Qualtrics showed that people are feeling more socially isolated (75%), facing higher stress (67%) and greater social anxiety (57%). Another 53% say they feel more emotionally exhausted. In a Mercer survey on employee concerns[2] in March, respondents wanted their organizations to provide emotional support (65%) and online mental health resources (55%) during the pandemic.


How the Healthy Minds at Work Can Help

A unique, evidence-based approach to assessing and addressing mental wellbeing in the workplace, the Healthy Minds at Work Assessment leverages the Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire (COPSOQ) approach recognized by both the International Labor Organization and the World Health Organization.


Through a comprehensive 50-question online assessment for their employees, businesses can gain valuable insights into their progress against four key workplace dimensions – Leadership, Culture, Career Development and Wellbeing – of mental health risks to better safeguard employee mental health at work. The Healthy Minds at Work Assessment also aims to help companies think ahead of the curve and prepare for the “new normal”. 


The Healthy Minds at Work Assessment will be available until 21 August 2020.


Time to Plug the Employee Mental Health Gap

Lewis Garrad, Partner and Psychologist, Mercer Asia, said, “Now is a critical time for employers to listen to their employees. Putting mental health at the forefront of the conversation is an important step companies can take to ensure that employees have the support and resources they need now and for the future.”


Supporting employees with mental well-being is not just the right thing to do, but has consequences on the productivity of a business too. The World Health Organization estimates that the global economy loses nearly US$1 trillion[3] every year in productivity due to depression and anxiety. Research has also shown that poor mental health could cause a 300% increase in hospitalization likelihood for various diseases[4]. In Asia, 64% of employees in Hong Kong reported that mental health affected their productivity at work[5], while other studies have shown that burned-out employees are more likely to take sick leave or leave their employer, increasing costs for hiring and training new staff.


“If there’s a silver lining to COVID-19, it’s that it has created a sense of urgency for employers to respond to effects of stress and anxiety they’re seeing in their workforce, whether it’s adding resources such as digital access to care, support groups or mental health programs. We hope that Healthy Minds at Work can be a useful tool and starting point for companies to review and step up their mental wellbeing initiatives,” said Liana Attard, Partner, Multinational Client Group Leader, Mercer Asia.




About Mercer

Mercer believes in building brighter futures by redefining the world of work, reshaping retirement and investment outcomes, and unlocking real health and well-being. Mercer’s approximately 25,000 employees are based in 43 countries and the firm operates in 130 countries. Mercer is a business of Marsh McLennan (NYSE: MMC), the world’s leading professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people, with 85,000 colleagues and annual revenue of over $20 billion. Through its market-leading businesses including Marsh, Guy Carpenter and Oliver Wyman, Marsh McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment. For more information, visit Follow Mercer on LinkedIn and Twitter.

[1] Anxiety in Singapore: Stats, Types and Who’s at Risk, available at

[2] Mercer. Employees’ Concerns about COVID-19, available at

[3] World Health Organization. Mental Health in the Workplace, available at

[4] American Journal of Hypertension, Volume 31, Issue 7, July 2018

[5]Harvard Business Review. Employee Burnout is a Problem with the Company, not the Person, available at

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