Zoom fatigue and burnout have become the buzzwords of work-life during the pandemic. But while the pandemic has exacerbated stressors faced by workers, workplace stress is not a new phenomenon.
In 2019, a well-being survey released by Cigna found that 92% of employed respondents in Singapore reported being stressed, much higher than the global average of 84%. In Asia particularly, the ‘always on’ culture is a major contributor to workplace stress, with 80% of Asian workers agreeing that they feel pressured to be connected 24/7.
In fact, the problem is so prevalent that the United Nations’ International Labour Organisation has dubbed stress as the “global epidemic of the 21st century”. In Singapore, stress-related illnesses represent nearly 20% of total health expenditure, at US$2.3 billion.
On a personal level, stress can have debilitating effects on an individual’s mental and physical health, but its implications extend beyond as well. Work-related stress that is not addressed can eventually lead to burnout, an occupational phenomenon recognised by the World Health Organisation that can reduce professional efficacy and cause feelings of discontent in workers.
The pressing need for employee wellness
With the pandemic introducing stressors such as economic uncertainty and Zoom fatigue, the need for employers to recognise and address workplace stress becomes more prominent than ever before. Thus arises the need for an increased emphasis on employee wellbeing. After all, employers and businesses, too, will benefit from improved employee wellness.
The Aon 2021 Global Wellbeing Survey finds real, tangible benefits that come with improving the wellbeing of employees; an improvement of employee wellbeing performance by 3% leads to a corresponding increase in customer satisfaction and retention by 1%. Likewise, a 4% increase in employee wellbeing performance results in a 1% increase in company profit and employee turnover.
It should be noted that employee wellbeing extends beyond providing for their physical health through mandatory medical leaves or health insurance. Instead, accounting firm Deloitte defines employee wellbeing as covering the four areas of emotional, physical, social, and financial. Thus, employee wellness programs should be formulated to address a holistic view of employee wellbeing.
How you can improve your employee wellness programs
Rather than a reactive approach like mandatory medical leaves, having proactive and preventive measures in place to address the wellbeing of employees is key to maintaining employee wellness.
Rio Tinto, a global mining company, was one of 12 companies recognised for ‘exemplary efforts’ to promote mental health at work earlier this year by mental health non-profit Silver Ribbon (Singapore). Taking a proactive approach, Rio Tinto provides all its leaders and employees with mental health training, equipping them with the knowledge to recognise “psychosocial hazards” so that they can identify a problem and extend help before it worsens.
Likewise, Singtel is taking the initiative to introduce preventive and early intervention measures. This includes a confidential, 24/7 professional counselling service, as well as coaching and mindfulness workshops. Employers who are interested in such services can consider signing up to an Employee Assistance Programme supported by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
Besides workplace programmes, an important factor in enhancing employee wellness is to cultivate a culture of care and concern. An inter-agency task force set up during Covid-19 recommends supervisors to conduct regular check-ins with their team members to maintain a personal connection and understand how staff are coping during the pandemic.
Pre-pandemic, Charterhouse also cultivated a family-like culture by having regular get-togethers, whether through casual team lunches, or staff outings and festive parties. These get-togethers provided an avenue for the team to bond, while also allowing them to rest, relax, and recharge, fuelling them for future workdays.
With employees feeling supported and happy, this paves the way for an engaged and motivated workforce that will improve both your company’s culture and productivity.