Challenges to corporate wellness
Amid the growing recognition that high corporate performance cannot come at the expense of individual wellness, employers are stepping up efforts to address the gaps in employee wellbeing schemes.
This push for change is especially urgent in Asia, where the “overwork” culture tends to be more deeply embedded. According to the McKinsey survey, one in three Asian workers are suffering burnout, higher than the 25% global average.
While the solutions to this problem are multi-faceted and might differ from company to company, here are three key ways that corporate wellness can be improved:
1. Reducing the stigma around mental and emotional health
While the pandemic has prompted people to become more open about their mental health and emotional issues like depression, many workers still balk at telling their bosses or colleagues about such struggles for fear that this may affect their professional image or perceptions about their competency.
This stigma can push individuals into even deeper stress as they have to battle it alone rather than seeking help. By affirming that nobody is immune to mental and emotional struggles, encouraging open conversations about ways to cope and providing a supportive community, companies can break the vicious cycle of stigma and mental illness.
At GIC, we aim to dispel such misconceptions through regular communications, training resources and organisational practices that support individuals to prioritise their wellbeing. In our most recent wellness campaign, we ran a program called “Are you ok” which focussed on building mental resilience, managing youth anxiety in the family, and coping with workplace depression and mid-life crisis. We also ran a photo story exhibition called “From Darkness to Light” which showcased photo art of people struggling with mental health. These programmes serve to remind our employees that they are not alone, and to feel safe that they will not be penalised for mental health challenges.
2. Exercising empathetic leadership
At the leadership level it is important to demonstrate that issues such as burnout and anxiety are not taboo topics. It also helps staff recognise that accepting one’s struggles is a healthy first step towards healing and wellness.
Corporate leaders in Western countries such as the US and Europe are generally more willing to share about their imperfect journeys towards holistic personal wellness. That said, we have seen top executives such as DBS chief executive Piyush Gupta make public his past struggles with acute anxiety in press interviews where he shared about his failed start-up venture before joining the Singapore bank.
At GIC, we encourage situational and empathetic leadership qualities in our managers to keep open perspectives in dealing with different circumstances, and show flexibility, understanding and care for team members especially during times of high stress.
3. Raising awareness of support resources
Companies can do more to educate their employees about what resources are available to help them thrive. This may seem like an obvious thing to do, but studies have shown that many companies fall short. A 2021 Gallup study found that only 60% of US employees were even aware their company offered corporate wellness benefits, and a mere 24% actually made use of it.
To ensure that our people get relevant and individualised support, we offer a 24/7 hotline for employees to address all their questions and counselling needs under our Enabling Support Programme (ESP).
During the pandemic, we expanded this programme to offer staff six complimentary counselling sessions with an external counsellor. All sessions are anonymous and there is no approval process required to take advantage of the counselling support.
We leverage tools for staff to identify if they were experiencing certain mental or emotional problems, as well as a GIC Wellbeing microsite to promote awareness and provide curated resources to guide staff on how to seek help.