Employers can take a number of steps to promote positive workplace mental health, especially in times like these with the Wuhan coronavirus looming over the region, reminds Benedict Lim.

In a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) business environment, organisations inevitably look for opportunities to optimise business value, reputation and effectiveness of their workforce.

Organisational focus on enhancing employee mental wellbeing has great potential in increasing employee engagement and contributes positively to organisational effectiveness; however this psychological capital of the workforce, is often under-capitalised.

Further, an organisation that focuses on the building the positive mental health can reduce the negative impact that mental health issues can have on employees, work units and organisations.

Mental health related issues can cause problems such as absenteeism and presenteeism; the latter refers to employees that show up at work but deliver sub-optimal performance due to stress.

In a report compiled by the American Psychological Association, it was found that one out of four employees have called in sick as a result of work stress. Productivity-related losses related to personal and family health problems cost employers an average of US$1,685 per employee per year. This is not accounting for costs related to presenteeism.

A focus on building positive mental health have been found to achieve the following:

  • Increased job satisfaction
  • Increased morale
  • Increased receptiveness and flexibility to workplace changes
  • Increased motivation for their work role
  • Increased level of work engagement, helping them to be happier and willing employees
  • Increased level of confidence and self esteem
These factors are found to be important contributors to productivity and performance at the workplace. Positive mental health can also help employees develop and maintain strong and supportive relationships with team members and promote better communication within the team.
It is important to first identify the risk factors within the organisation before implementing any form of intervention strategies.
This leads to the building of a productive and adaptive team that can be characterised by its sense of contentment, zest for life, and ability to laugh and have fun together.

In addition, positive mental health at work allows team members working together to better manage their workloads, collaborate and share decision making, and minimises work-related stress and burnout. Thus, fostering positive mental health in the workplace is essential to developing and maintaining efficient high performing work teams.

With a robust mental health programme in place, your organisation is likely to achieve the following:

  • Increased staff retention and loyalty
  • Improved productivity and revenue
  • Increased positive attitude from employees towards the organization
  • Increased quality of customers service
  • Increased satisfaction of customers that can positively enhance business reputation and customer loyalty
  • Increased return of investment
  • Decreased workplace withdrawal including absenteeism and presenteeism,
  • Decreased recruitment, training and orientation costs
  • Decreased healthcare related costs, including insurance and workers compensation payments
Employers can take a number of steps to promote positive mental health in the organisation. Here is the four-step process that we developed for Health Promotion Board which you can use to implement robust workplace mental health initiatives that cater to the needs of individuals and organisations:

1. Needs analysis It is important to first identify the risk factors within the organisation before implementing any form of intervention strategies. This helps prevent wastage of resources and ineffective interventions. Needs can be identified through carefully-designed surveys, interviews with stakeholders, and confidential focused-group discussions.

2. Source for suitable intervention strategies There is no one-size-fits-all solution for mental health issues within an organisation. Every organisation and individual are unique and people often experience a similar problem differently. Solutions need to be catered to specific needs.

3. Review and monitor implementation Following the selection of suitable intervention strategies, it is important for an organisation to review and monitor the progress of implementation. This can be done through the formation of a wellness committee made of a core group of individuals in the organisation responsible for effective implementation of the suitable intervention.

4. Evaluate and revamp Following the implementation of an intervention strategy, it is important for an organisation to evaluate and revamp the intervention at selected periods of the programme. This is done to evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation and serves as the basis for possible revamp, should it fall below expectations.

This can only be done through different ways such as, comparing productivity before and after the implementation, conducting pre-post programme evaluation, and interviewing the employees directly affected by the implementation.

These four steps may seem onerous and difficult to implement, but if there is a positive mental health champion who is trained and equipped with the tools, motivation and skills, this will ensure you capitalise on the psychological capital of your workforce, and both employers and employee will reap the benefits. Are you ready to take advantage of the psychological capital of your human capital?

The author, Benedict Lim, is the CEO & Chief Psychologist of iGROW, an award winning psychological consultancy specialising in leadership, culture and engagement. Together with Maria Plengsangtip, Partner and Consultant Psychologist at iGROW, he will be collaborating with Human Resources Online to deliver an online course on Managing Mental Health & Wellbeing in the Workplace.

To register or find out more, write to Heather Ang at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Photo / StockUnlimited