4 Ways to Building Bettter Workplaces

Could you imagine if I told you that if you want to stay motivated, you should start working, keep working, and keep working? No – don’t close the browser yet – it’s actually researched by the World Health Organisation (WHO). WHO says that work is good for mental health because it gives people a purpose and makes them independent. However, a bad working environment can undermine these benefits and make employees sick, lowering productivity. Globally, depression and anxiety disorders cost $1 trillion a year. While a person’s mental health is affected by work and non-work factors, most adults spend most of their time at work, hence it makes sense that workplaces should make adjustments to help employees. Don’t worry though, we’ve got a few suggestions for you.

1. Hear your employees out

The most straightforward way of being there to support your employees might just be to hear them out. If only that worked for everybody, right? In Singapore, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) has initiatives to equip managers and human resource personnel with the skills and knowledge to be supportive leaders at their workplaces. But the sad reality is that there is a stigma associated with people speaking out about personal struggles at workplaces and employees (quite understandably) fear being seen as weak.

So the problem is often not knowing what the problem is in the first place. But all is not lost – if having your employees be vulnerable with you is too unattainable, give them the option to speak to someone else.

Your employees will greatly benefit from having access to counseling services like the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). On top of providing your employees with an outlet to have confidential and private conversations with the service provider, these services also encourage individual employees to take responsibility for their own mental well-being.

2. Grant Mental Health Days

Some companies like LinkedIn and Google have taken to giving their employees mental health days where they could take time off work without a medical certificate. Just like how you would occasionally come down with a fever, there are days when people are emotionally ill. Expecting your employees to work while they are overwhelmed or flailing under debilitating stress is counterproductive and it lowers long-term employee job performance. It might help to understand that mental health conditions are chronic illnesses and granting mental health days reassures your employees that they should not be afraid of treating any symptoms that arise.

3. Clean up the workplace

Other than the usual dust and grit, workplaces can become “dirty”with workplace politics and minor acts of incivility like ignoring a co-worker, rudeness or disregard for others. Nobody appreciates a pagro (passive aggressive person) in the workplace, really. On a team and department level, it is important to foster a psychologically safe and trusting work environment. In fact, organisational politics was listed as the top workplace stressor for Singaporeans in a 2019 survey by The Roffey Park Institute. Look at this list of passive aggressive behaviors in workplaces by career coach Melody Wilding:

  • Sarcasm
  • Silent treatment
  • A cynical attitude
  • Backhanded compliments (eg: ‘you’re lucky you got that promotion’)
  • Gossip
  • Rejecting other viewpoints and feedback


If you see them at your workplace (or if you catch yourself doing them), it’s time to fix it. Interpersonal relationships are, well, personal but employers can take effective steps to curb sabotaging or destructive behaviour by paying attention to the team’s interpersonal interactions and communications. Devising training programmes for employees about incivility and setting aside resources to have face-to-face (or virtual) sessions to talk their problems out are ways to encourage an open culture and minimise the possibility of micro-aggression growing. Opportunities to build stronger social bonds in the workplace are also rudimentary for employees to build their own peer support networks organically.

4. Synthesize a GOOD team

In my previous company, I was constantly at loggerheads with my colleague from another team. While I generally think meetings longer than 1.5 hours aren’t useful, she’s always trying to get us to continue brainstorming even after two or three hours, even if no ideas seem to have surfaced – to her, we need to resolve roadblocks right away. There was a fundamental difference in the way we worked – and soon enough, this friction made working together hard. It wasn’t long before I requested a team change and I was paired with someone who thought similarly to me – and this made meetings more efficient – when we hit a roadblock, we stopped and came back to it later.

That’s why you have to consider every potential employees’ work styles and personalities. Business chemistry can make or break team dynamics. Work is already stressful enough, the last thing you want jeopardizing your team’s success is mismatched team members stressing each other out.

As the top management, you have the power to make structural changes to the organisation via policies. Take the time to understand what is happening on the ground and what the employees actually need.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to creating better workplaces, neither is there a divine approach that works for all employees. Working towards better supporting your employees on their mental health journeys is going to require resources and take a lot of trial-and-error but it is an investment worth uptaking if you truly value your human capital.

With these 4 tips, mental health in the workplace would seem more manageable. Employee’s mental health is important because they are the ones that are part of the building blocks of the company.

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