With the current work from home arrangements and work suspensions imposing possible stresses on the mental health of workers, the Singapore government has released an advisory for employers to better support their employees during this period.
Jointly developed by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Ministry of Social and Family Development, Agency for Integrated Care, Institute of Mental Health and National Council of Social Service (NCSS), these resources include steps employers and employees can take, a list of support services available, and more.
Steps employers can take: Regular check-ins, access to counselling, and more
First, for employees who are on work suspension, employers should keep them updated on salary and leave arrangements, to ensure they are well-assured and prevent unnecessary worrying.
They should adopt the set of practices outlined in MOM’s advisory on salary and leave arrangements during these periods of suspension, and communicate all salary and leave policies as early as possible.
Second, it will be good for supervisors to check in with their staff regularly, at least once a week. These can be done through informal chats on how they are coping, and to encourage employees to support one another.
Third, is to consider signing up for an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) as part of the company’s employee benefits package, so employees have access to an external counselling programme.
“HR departments should assure employees that counselling engagements would be kept private and confidential. SEPs may avail themselves to the counselling resources as well,” the advisory stated.
- A list of EAP service providers can be found here, while a set of other external counselling resources is provided here;
- The NCSS’ Mental Health Toolkit for Employers, which provides more resources on raising mental health awareness, training and supporting employees with mental health conditions, can also be accessed here.
Last, employers could also provide flexible work schedules for parents of young children, as well as regular breaks even under WFH, to tend to their children’s Home-Based Learning.
HR departments are encouraged to inform their employees of online parent support, and can refer here for more information.
Steps employees and SEPs can take: Keep active, have a circle of support, and more
First, being physically active and healthy greatly impacts one’s mental health condition. These are some simple ways to do so:
- Ensure you get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each day;
- Eat a balanced diet to strengthen your immunity;
- Adopt a new activity – be it listening to music, reading a book, picking up a new skill online, or more; and
- Some simple relaxation techniques can go a long way in helping. These can be found here, as provided in the advisory.
Second, in isolation or while working remotely, that’s where a strong circle of social support plays another huge role in keeping one mentally healthy. Thus, employees are encouraged to reach out to their friends and family regularly – be it through video chats, or other message applications.
For those who require more, they can also tap on resources such as the National CARE Hotline, which can all be found here.
Last, those who need to seek employment can do so through the recently-launched SGUnited Jobs initiative, an extension of employment facilitation efforts under the Adapt and Grow initiative, to create about 10,000 jobs over the next one year and match jobseekers and workers affected by the current COVID-19 situation.
In separate news, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has rolled out several new initiatives to help support tourism businesses during the Circuit Breaker and to give them a headstart for recovery.
These initiatives will help them engage their customers, strengthen their business foundations and deepen their manpower capabilities, and also include extra help to ease the cash-flow concerns of travel agents.
Two key pillars – tools for accelerating digital transformation, and online training to upskill workers, have been summarised below:
Upskilling initiatives for employees
To help affected businesses rethink their strategies and prepare for recovery, STB Marketing College has partnered key digital players such as Facebook, Google and LinkedIn, to develop web-based training for the tourism industry.
Facebook Singapore, for example, has produced a webinar series that targets businesses in the travel, hospitality, retail, and BTMICE sectors. In this series, experts will share business insights and best practices to engage customers and help businesses adapt during these challenging times.
Further, STB is also supporting Google and UOB in their redesign of the SME Leadership Academy programme to focus on SMEs in retail and tourism. The programme will cover topics including digital marketing, online collaboration tools to support remote working and overseas market expansion efforts.
In addition, STB will partner LinkedIn to develop another online training programme, with more details to be announced at a later date.
Helping accelerate digital transformation
To build resilience during times of COVID-19, STB has developed a set of tools under a three-step framework to accelerate the tourism sector’s digital transformation:
- Learn. To help businesses understand their current state of transformation, STB will be launching the Tourism Transformation Index, a self-diagnostic tool for companies to assess their strengths, identify areas of opportunity and provide recommendations on next steps to take in their digital transformation journey, in Q2 2020. Companies can indicate their interest to participate here.
- Test. STB will open the ThreeHouse, a dedicated innovation space located on its premises for companies to collaborate and test new ideas and solutions. More details will be announced at a later date.
- Build. STB has created a suite of smart services that allow businesses to tap shared data and content – to drive innovation and guide their business decisions. This includes the Singapore Tourism Analytics Network, or Stan, which is being made available to the industry for the first time. Through Stan, industry stakeholders can access updated tourism statistics, and exchange data – all of which will prove useful as they start to plan for recovery.
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