COVID-19 has been hailed as the “big equalizer”. However, the reality is that we aren’t all equally resilient, especially when it comes to mental health. Increasingly more employees are susceptible to mental illnesses due to the high stress, competitive nature and long hours of current work life.
According to the WHO, more than 300 million people suffer from depression globally, making it the leading cause of disability worldwide. In Asia, a study by healthcare consultancy firm Asia Care Group reported that 91 per cent of respondents felt stressed, and 80 per cent stated they had an “always-on” work culture. And in Singapore alone, one in seven people experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. Annually the country spends about S$3.1 billion, or 18 per cent, of its total healthcare expenditure on stress-related illnesses.
Today, evidence shows that investing in workplace mental wellbeing is not only the right thing to do but also the smart thing. It is shown to improve productivity and long-term business sustainability. Employers today know they cannot pretend that mental health and wellbeing is someone else’s problem because part of our workforce will have to grapple with mental health conditions while under employment.
These statistics illustrate that interventions which assist employees with depression are necessary. It is no longer an issue that can be ignored. Systems, policies and procedures need to be developed, adapted, implemented and evaluated to mitigate the high cost of depression in the workplace.
A 2017 survey of 505 companies by the National Council for Social Services (Singapore) found that for every S$1 invested in workplace adjustment (for example flexible work arrangements, job redesign, peer training) to support those recovering from mental health conditions, generated an average return of S$5.60. This was calculated through a reduction in absenteeism and medical claims, as well as an increase in productivity.
As a responsible employer, supporting your employees’ mental health is not just the right thing to do; it also makes good business sense!