Employees’ emotional and mental wellness – just as important

I came across an article on ChannelNewsAsia today on an incident that happened last November.

My condolences go out to the family. While I don’t know the deceased or her family, but it saddens me to hear such news. Other than echoing the State Coroner, Mr. Marvin Bay’s comment on more support for working mums, I don’t intend to discuss the details of the story or repeat any part of it on this article, you can read the article if you wish to find out more.

Quoting the article on Mr. Bay’s comment on more support for working mums, “It would be ideal for the workplace to acknowledge the needs of working mothers with new babies, and take steps to ameliorate the additional stress imposed on them by providing better work-life balance, flexible working conditions and affordable, quality childcare”, I cannot agree more and emphasis enough the importance and value of that support can bring to working mothers.

Being in HR for most of my career, I had the opportunity to work with employees at different stages in their life journey. While everyone has their own story and stresses that they have to deal with not just from work but also in their personal life, we cannot overlook the impact in which this accumulation of stress has on that individual. It’s not just the mothers that bear this impact alone. We are also seeing the daddies getting more involved and dealing with the pressures of work and family.

I’m sure we all know the challenges in having to balance the demands and deadlines in work with the commitments at home, one can argue that as a professional, you should leave not bring your troubles from home to your workplace. Someone told me many years ago that her manager made that comment to her when she was going through an emotional patch and wasn’t looking all that bright eye bushy tail at work.

While we don’t have the full context to that incident, I would say that it was rather insensitive to had done that. Should this staff be at her breaking point, that comment would had a very drastic effect.

What is HR’s role in this? What is the manager’s role in this? As we see a blurring of line between work and family, it becomes increasingly hard to judge and manage.

Personally, I draw the line at not getting involved in what happened at home. However, I make sure that I’m sensitive to the employee’s state of mind and emotions, provide the support or allowance for him or her to manage work and time.  That means not to micromanage the process, but set expectations for the outcomes, and manage that delivery.

In most organizations, there are “employee assistant program” with a hotline number to an independent agency providing that service. In the course of my career, I’ve recommended the use of such service to employees as a part of increasing awareness that such support is available.

Personally, I was a recipient of such recommendation from a senior HR leader that I can utilize the service if I’m needed some one to talk to. That was back in 2015 when I happened to be in Bangkok during the Erawan Shrine bombing, and I’ve narrowly missed it due to a change in schedule. I found myself having to deal with the emotional shock and also manage the fears back home during the incident. All was well in that incident for me.

There is no magic formula or silver bullet to eradicating work stress. Flexible work arrangements, childcare support, and other benefits does go a long way to helping improving situation for your employees and their families. However, at the heart of it all, the people administrating this is most critical. You can have the best benefits program and policies in the world, but with the most insensitive people administrating them, employees will still not feel at ease using them.

As a strong advocate for work life integration, a lot of people I spoke to share with me that it is not that they don’t have such policies and benefits, it is that they felt like they’ve been scrutinized every time they utilize them.

On the contrary, you can have the most basic benefits programs and policy, but with the right HR, Managers, and Leaders. People who are sensitive to employees’ wellbeing and in turn creates that culture of trust and support, you could still create an organization with a world class culture and environment.

As a call to action, I would like to urge everyone to start listening to the people around you at work. Create an environment of acceptance and support. You don’t have to wait for HR to build that program. You are a leader in your own right, whether if you manage a team or not, nothing is stopping you from reaching out and making your colleagues’ life at work a better one.

If you are a people manager or a HR practitioner, manage your employees from the heart. They will see the difference.

Happy Wednesday and I’m going to enjoy the rest of my day off now. 🙂


Eric Wong

Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.

Eric Wong is APAC Head of Talent Acquisition Leader at Fitbit. His experience spans across the various human resource functions such as HR Information Systems, Business Partnering and Talent Management. Eric currently sits on the Advisory Board of the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS). Connect with him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter @ErickyWong.


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