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World Mental Health Day 2023 special: A human right for all

World Mental Health Day 2023 special: A human right for all


HRO reaches out to HR and business leaders across Asia, to understand how they enable care for this basic right in the workplace for everyone. Feature by Tracy Chan, with inputs from Priya Sunil and Arina Sofiah.

“Everyone, whoever and wherever they are, has a right to the highest attainable standard of mental health.” – World Health Organization (WHO)

All the headwinds, turbulences and uncertainties over the past few years have taken a toll on everyone’s mental health, whether consciously or unconsciously. But one silver lining is the increasing awareness and care on this topic, that was previously considered sensitive, but is now fast becoming mainstream.

Raising awareness and driving positive change is, in fact, what World Mental Health Day on 10 October every year is meant to be.

To support this year’s theme of ‘Mental health is a universal human right’, Human Resources Online has reached out to HR and business leaders across Asia, to understand how they promote this basic right that is worth caring about in the workplace for everyone.

Helena Shen, Chief Human Resources Officer, Asia Pacific, TK Elevator

helena shen chro apac tk elevator

In our line of business, physical and mental fitness are vital for staying focused and alert in high-risk environments. Operating machinery under these conditions can cause injuries to individuals and coworkers. To address this, we have introduced a mental health learning playlist and campaigns that connect safety measures with family time. These initiatives raise mental health awareness and promote safer operations.

Harshita Uppal, Chief People Officer, Home Credit India

harshita uppal cpo home credit india

We put employee’s holistic wellbeing at the centre of everything we do. Being in the service industry, our human capital is one of the most vital elements for our business success. We have a heterogeneous workforce where almost five generations are working together. An open communication culture is a cornerstone for us which allows the workforce to collaborate and voice ideas openly. Structurally, we drive inclusivity which ensures that everyone is valued equally and we celebrate every small win while investing strategically in individual development through mentoring and training.

Dr. Natineeporn Rattanawichai, Vice President, Human Resource Head Office and Thailand, Indorama Ventures Public Company

dr. natineeporn indorama ventures

Indorama Ventures is committed to supporting its associates with mental health issues in the workplace based on a proficient resilience strategy, which was further adapted to cope with the post-COVID workplace situation. Our employee assistance programme offers confidential counselling and practical guidance via virtual channels, phone, or email, extending to employees and their loved ones whereas an HR counselling service at each entity has been established to ensure accessibility to vital resources.

Lim Chee Gay, Group CHRO, TDCX

chee gay tdcx

TDCX is in the business of driving customer satisfaction. Our people regularly handle the toughest issues and deeply disgruntled customers. Employee wellbeing is therefore paramount. As mental health awareness grows, we host various initiatives, including expert talks and provide both online and in-person counselling support through our employee assistance programme.

Simon Ong, Chief Human Resource Officer, NTUC First Campus

simon ong ntuc first campus

A ‘people first’ organisation, NTUC First Campus empowers employees to prioritise their mental health. Besides a caring and supportive workplace culture, we provide wellbeing leave, hybrid work arrangements, access to counselling platforms and resources, and activities such as webinars on relaxation techniques to reduce stress and prevent burnout.

Armina Mispar, Head of People Operations, Forest Interactive

armina mispar head of people operations forest interactive

We address mental health at work through our #YouMatter campaign, encourage open discussions, easy access to counselling (talent assistance programme), and flexible work arrangements. We've also formed an 'Anti-Harassment & Discrimination Committee' to promote inclusivity, while leaders conduct regular employee check-ins for feedback. These are all under the umbrella of our #ItEndsNow campaign.

Jason R. Jocson, Head of People & Culture, etaily

jason jocson head of people culture etaily

Mental health issues in the workplace, often overlooked, include burnout, discrimination, and remote worker isolation. To address these, etaily can provide mental health training, fosters open communication, offers employee assistance programmes, allows flexible work arrangements, conducts regular check-ins, and measures progress through surveys for a mentally healthier workplace.

Doungthip Leenuttapong, Head, HR Services, CIMB Thai Bank

doungthip cimb thai bank

There are several mental health issues that can go unnoticed but seriously impact employee wellbeing. Stress can lead to inefficiency and long-term health issues, while workplace bullying and harassment can lead to depression, anxiety, and decreased job satisfaction. To address these issues, policies and mechanisms have been established for employees to raise concerns. A one-to-one counselling session is available for employees to share their burdens privately, and training sessions and seminars are provided to enhance knowledge and awareness.

Dr. Loo Leap Han, Head of People, Infinity Logistics & Transport

dr. loo leap han infinity

Increasing the employees' awareness of mental health issues caused by bullying or mobbing is crucial for creating a supportive and inclusive work environment. Psychological safety at work matters more (now) than ever! The senior management team and managers need to first do a “self-check” if they are the aggressors. Stop and change this abusive behaviour. Being on the receiving end of bullying/mobbing at work can be stressful. No one should have to tolerate such abusive behaviour in any setting.

Heather Mitchell, Associate Director, Global Workplace Experience, People and Organisation Development, Agoda

heather mitchell agoda

With the increase in the cost of living, anxiety around financial and emotional wellbeing is of utmost concern. To support our employees’ holistic wellness, we provide knowledge sessions on mental health best practices and promote our global EAP (employee assistance programme) – which gives employees and their loved ones access to licensed counsellors, and comprehensive wellness content. These initiatives aim to empower employees to navigate all aspects of life and work.

Pokpong Pathamasoonthorn, Country HR Lead & People Partner, Thailand, Malaysia & Singapore, Maersk

pokpong maersk

In the workplace, we prioritise addressing both common "burnout" and less noticeable "compassion fatigue". We foster a culture of empathy and support through workshops, accessible resources, self-care options, and open communication. Our employee assistance programme and wellbeing initiatives provide the needed support and knowledge for better mental health.

Jolene Huang, Chief Talent Officer, Singapore & Southeast Asia, Publicis Groupe

jolene huang publicis groupe

Being humans, we all innately want to succeed in our roles so many give extra long hours, extra care to do a good job. There are times when things don't go their way and people fall into a temporary pit of being depressed. Leaders/managers need to be intuitive to pick these first signs up and address them – whether to help support employees or just give due recognition to employees. The converse is also true, employees also need to take the initiative to recognise these signs and take steps to ask for help.

So we put in mechanisms to encourage conversations in the most efficient way so people don't feel they need too much time to do so. Platforms where employees can do shout outs to colleagues to reinforce good behaviour or send encouragement. For us, we digitalise our mental health offerings to speak better to our digitally savvy employees.

Gopi Mirchandani, Head of North Asia and Head of Strategy, Asia Pacific, Schroders

gopi mirchandani head of north asia and head of strategy asia pacific schroders

It’s crucial to de-mystify the concept of mental illness. Schroders actively organises sessions to enable staff to better understand their own needs, and how to achieve good mental health and wellbeing. We should not underestimate the potential of burnout and the importance of getting sufficient rest and exercise, and keeping to a healthy diet.

Pattaraporn Vimonwatvetee, General Manager, Amgen Thailand

pattaraporn vimonwatvetee gm amgen thailand

When it comes to employee wellbeing, Amgen’s approach is to listen and engage with our employees to understand their needs as there is simply no one-size-fits-all. We are committed to supporting our employees to achieve good work-life balance through initiatives such as 'Work Empowered' and 'Flex Space', equipping them with tools and resources to find their own 'right' balance of personal life, work and career development.

Amanda Chew, Human Resources Manager, J&T Express Singapore

amanda chew human resources manager jt express singapore

The mental wellbeing of our employees is a top concern for us as people are core to our business. At J&T Express Singapore, we believe in engaging our employees regularly through team building and workshops, understanding their pain points and challenges, and providing support to help them allay the pressures of the fast-paced logistics industry.

Aditi Sharma Kalra, Editor-in-Chief, Human Resources Online 

It is important for leaders to nurture a culture that supports collaboration, inclusivity, and empowerment. This enables open and trusting conversations between managers and their teams on issues that could, directly or indirectly, relate to their personal wellbeing. This is in addition to providing the means to support wellbeing, such as advocating physical fitness, healthy nutritional habits, sharing stories that can help others open up, as well as consciously setting aside time to learn new skills, interact with colleagues, or simply decompress at the end of a busy week.

Lead image / Shutterstock 
Photos / Provided

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