29th NOVEMBER 2021

Singapore companies find creative ways to address employee mental health challenges

In the face of a mental health crisis, Singapore companies are thinking outside the box to support employees’ mental wellbeing.

This was among the key findings in a new whitepaper “Be there when it matters – Navigating Employee’s Mental Health”, co-authored by Cigna, Mercer and WorkWell Leaders Workgroup.

The whitepaper, which explores the current mental health landscape in Singapore, found that more than half of Singapore business leaders agree that mental health support needs to go beyond traditional solutions such as webinars and workshops.

Leveraging data and technology

The white paper reveals that seven in ten Singapore business leaders want greater access to employee mental health data and insights in their organisation in order to provide more targeted solutions. Beyond the traditional utilisation rate of EAP, companies want to know how many employees are experiencing mental wellbeing issues, what challenges they are facing and how they are coping with them. Current EAP solutions cannot track such information, leaving employers in the dark about their employee’s mental state. Through a digital app, data and content can be tracked to provide companies with insights on how to better support their employees.

35% of business leaders are looking to implement a hybrid of EAP and digital solutions. Many companies are currently using telephone EAP, but hybrid EAPs are on the rise as companies look to merge digital and telephone EAPs into one complete experience. Coupled with seamless access to clinical care and insurance to mitigate mental health issues, employers can then provide more holistic support for their employees.

Mr Raymond Ng, CEO and Country Manager of Cigna Singapore shared

“People now are more aware of the importance of mental health in Asia especially during the pandemic. We have seen more engagement with digital solutions, as well as greater utilisation by employees, over the past year. We aim to work with employers to provide the right care to their staff by leveraging data and technology to support their health journey.”

 

Rethinking mental healthcare costs

In Singapore, mental health benefits continue to be the exception rather than the norm. As of 2021, only about 47% of Singapore employers provide mental health benefits, compared to over 80% in the US. This is due to cost constraints, skepticism about the returns on investment for mental health resources added, and the commitment and engagement of the employees in such programmes.

However, with the rise of employees experiencing burnout, companies are starting to look for new ways to enhance mental health coverage.

According to the whitepaper, eight in ten of businesses are willing to invest more in mental health coverage through co-funding schemes, where employees pay a small portion of the treatment and the remainder is covered by the company. Nearly all respondents (95%) were open to the idea of pooled mental health insurance, where multiple companies and insurers join hands and share the costs.

Mr Neil Narale, Mercer Marsh Benefits Leader, Singapore said, “We need to change the landscape of how insurance views mental health and provide better access for employees to seek support. Co-funding with employees and pooled group mental health insurance programmes are a few effective ways for companies to work around budget constraints and other cost related challenges. Aside from budgets, it’s also important for organisations to build a supportive culture that puts employees’ mental wellbeing at the forefront and to be open to new solutions that can be customised to benefit both the organisation and their employees.”

Employers’ critical role in the invisible crisis

It is estimated that stress-related illnesses cost Singapore’s economy about S$3.2 billion each year, accounting for about 18% of the country’s total health expenditure. This makes Singapore the second highest market in terms of spend on stress-related illnesses across Asia-Pacific.

With the ongoing restrictions in Singapore, 25% of employees have reported feeling overwhelmed and stressed during this time. Companies are also feeling the brunt of the impact with increased turnover rates and lowered employee engagement due to increased levels of employee burnout.

"The mental health crisis has taken a severe toll not only on the workforce, but also the economy," says Anthea Ong, former Nominated Member of Parliament and Founder/Chair of WorkWell Leaders. "Leaders play a critical role in creating a safe and inclusive workplace culture that destigmatises mental health whilst normalising mental wellbeing support of employees as a strategic priority."

"How we take care of our employees' mental health and wellbeing determines whether we are an employer of choice for talents in this growing crisis. Like climate change and sustainability, employee mental wellbeing is fast moving up the priority chain in investor engagement as well because a mentally healthy workplace with thriving employees is more important than ever to foster sustainable innovation and growth."

In addition to employee wellness, the whitepaper suggests that the wellness of leaders is equally as important. Today’s leaders, overwhelmed by the growing volume of expectations from the business, clients and its people, often neglect their own wellness and continue to put on a brave front. According to the whitepaper, leaders who don’t practice empathy and vulnerability will risk creating an environment where expectations become unrealistic, psychological safety and trust will be jeopardised, and overall productivity may dive due to unseen consequences of workplace stress.

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