How to be an inclusive employer

Addressing mental health at the workplace in Singapore



A survey last year by global health and wellness consultancy Mercer Marsh Benefits found that 60 per cent of the Singapore- or Hong Kong-based multinational corporations polled realized that the mental wellness of their staff was a priority. But only 30 per cent had done something about it.





This suggests that, while companies recognize that addressing employees’ mental well-being is a factor in retaining talent, they’re not sure how to deal with that stigma.


The benefits include reduction in medical claims and in increase in average working hours per employee per week. Workplace adjustments include access to counsellors and flexible work arrangements.


The rise of the gig economy presents solutions to mental health needs, such as an increase in flexible work.


When you think about mental well-being, a lot of it stems from not having one-size-fits-all routines, involving working at a desk. It’s also about flexible working arrangements where people can work for themselves at their pace.



About one in seven people in Singapore admitted that they had experienced mental illness at some point in their life, according to the second Singapore Mental Health Study, which was conducted in 2016 and reported last year.
The research showed that every $1 invested in the workplace adjustment for persons in recovery from mental illness generated an average of $5.60 in returns for companies.


Five tips on how to be an inclusive employer:


  1. Be aware – There is huge discomfort talking about mental illness openly. Build awareness through education and health talks.

  2. Champion mental wellness – Have network champions, meaning people who have recovered from mental illness, speak openly about this topic. Other employees in recovery feel less alone if they can connect with such champions or groups of them. Recovery from mental illness is no different from something like diabetes, which you similarly learn to cope with and manage.

  3. Work differently – Have flexible or remote working arrangements and workplace adjustments. We have a client with an employee who had extreme OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and needed to work in a very quiet environment. This organisation had an open office but created quiet areas on account of this employee. These quiet spaces became popular with other workers too.

  4. Benefit from diversity – Consider hiring people who are in mental health recovery as a diversity measure. It is like how we have gender or cultural diversity targets.

  5. Recognise resilience – There is no regret hiring someone who has recovered from a mental illness, 90 per cent of the time. Recovering, as well as knowing that you have recovered, makes a person very aware of his or her wellbeing and very resilient.


For more guidance, read the Singapore Health & Benefits study by Mercer Marsh Benefits.


Neil Narale

Neil Narale is a partner and health leader at Mercer Marsh Benefits, an award-winning global health and wellness consultancy. Neil's client responsibilities centre on helping multinational and local organisations manage their employee health and benefit offerings from a regional and local perspective. Neil received his Bachelor's of Science degree in Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Western Ontario. He is a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries (US) and a Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries.


Excerpts of this article taken from The Sunday Times’ Life Features on 5 May 2019. Click here to view the original article.

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