Transforming Corporate Culture: Leadership and Mental Well-being



In the corporate setting, it is not uncommon to hear comments like these:


“They don’t actually care, it’s just for publicity.”


“I’ve got no time for ‘well-being’, client expects the report by this weekend!”


“I’m just a headcount, at the end of the day it’s all about money.”


Mental health problems in the corporate world are no secret. Anxieties from the Covid-19 pandemic and the shift to working remotely have only exacerbated the issue. The nation has seen an increase in mental health related issues, with the year 2020 seeing an 18% jump in crisis-related calls. The local news has also reported that 71% of surveyed individuals were mentally distressed due to the arising changes from the global pandemic.

Correspondingly, businesses have ramped up their enthusiasm in championing mental wellness in the workplace, yet the statistics tell us otherwise.


Here are 2 challenges in corporate wellness programs:


1. Providing Access to Mental Health Resources

Firms have increased their subscriptions for mindfulness and meditation workshops, encouraging their employees to be intentional about caring for their mental well-being.

However:

In organisations where “non-work” initiatives are frowned upon, individuals may continue to feel (if not more) pressured when they spend time to focus on their personal well-being instead of completing their work.


2. Promoting healthier work-life balance

With the new work-from-home arrangements, efforts have been made to encourage clearer working boundaries.

However:

Due to the nature of work in certain industries, some struggle to put this into action, especially with their heavy workload and urgent deadlines. The push for having a work-life balance whilst knowing that they are unable to avoid long working hours, can cause counterintuitive effects for the employees.


Community-building, Within

While we acknowledge that there are fundamental systemic changes to be made for the betterment of a company’s work culture, there are smaller changes that can be implemented to care for your employees well-being.

We believe that the concept of corporate well-being revolves around the principle of valuing your employees. This can be achieved through fundamental relationship-building elements, heavily spearheaded by transformational leaders of the organisation. As the CEO of investment bank Nomura Singapore, Mr Ho, states: “It can’t just come from HR (the human resources department). It has to come from the leadership.”


Questions to Transform your Leadership:


1. Do you know your employees beyond their resume?

When leaders begin to see their employees beyond a headcount, it could change the way both the employer and employee interact and relate to each other. A slight shift in a leader’s language and tone could evoke a heightened sense of patience and empathy, establishing a personal connection that could go a long way.


At Solve n+1, we practice having regular social-emotional check ins. Framed as a weekly ‘meeting’, time is set aside to intentionally share about things outside of work, such as our struggles or joys in our personal lives. This camaraderie deeply enriches our working relationship, leaving little room for misunderstandings.


2. Do you participate in these mental-health campaigns yourself?

Leaders need to set a good example by first taking care of their own personal well-being. Organising mental-health campaigns and preaching the importance of employees’ mental well-being must be coupled with individual lifestyle choices that exemplify the leader’s values.


A good and simple example is for leaders to follow-through the stipulated work boundaries, to promote a healthy work-life balance. Leaders who set aside time amidst their busy schedules to care for themselves, and is mindful of adhering to keeping work within working hours, sends a clear message for employees to value their mental-health too.

When employees see alignment between their leaders’ actions and the policies they make, they will begin to trust their employer and feel valued in return.


3. How are you, really?

As a leader, showing that you are just as human as anyone else, can be remarkably impactful. When leaders step up to share their struggles, it has the power to invite people into a realm of psychological safety, knowing that to struggle and to seek help is normalised.

It also provides an opportunity for their subordinates to participate and co-create with their leaders, which could bring forth new innovations and instill a heightened sense of ownership.


Being vulnerable with others can be daunting, especially when peoples’ lives depend on you. Start by identifying key people you can trust, mentally and emotionally, and be real with them. Share about your fears for the company and do not be afraid to let them know that you don’t have the answers to everything. Sometimes letting your guard down can create positive changes and a culture of authenticity for the company.


Before seeking to serve and establish trust with your larger consumer-base, perhaps the first group of people to serve are your very own. Before taking off to the sky, perhaps we could learn to walk the ground again and begin with small steps. Taking care of your workers’ well-being can go a long way.

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