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In July, JLL joined City Mental Health Alliance Hong Kong (CMHA HK), making it the first real estate firm in Hong Kong to join the collaborative venture founded by businesses in Hong Kong.

Winnie Tsien, JLL’s head of human resources and a former social worker, told Human Resources the significance of the alliance and her thoughts on how HR can facilitate workplace mental health.

What does JLL’s partnership with CMHA mean to JLL?

Covid-19 has a big impact on employees. Even though many companies have implemented various wellbeing initiatives, forming an alliance is a visible commitment for our colleagues. 

We attend CMHA member sharing sessions and senior leadership forums where we learn about the best practices in Hong Kong. In October, we organised a mental health month. We hope to start from building awareness for all levels of employees.

In the next stage, we will liaise with CMHK's sister company Mind HK to organise mental health first aid trainings, starting from top management. We have learnt that strategy-wise, it requires both a top down and bottom up approach. We hope that colleagues can have a skill set to deal with mental health issues since they spend a long time in the office.

How do you measure mental health?
Through our annual people survey, pulse surveys which are conducted three times a year. There are standard questions and questions based on recent events and the company's recent strategies.

Some questions have to be asked over and over so we can track their progress.

In addition, we regularly organise focus groups and sharing sessions.

Mental health is hard to measure. Is there an end point for HR's pursuit?
There is no specific end time. It has to be a continual effort as there are new employees coming in every month. A mature approach is something we can look forward to. It would be ideal if employees can casually share their mental health-related issues with others, like how they would inform others when they catch a flu. However, it might take time to achieve this because of the general Hong Kong workplace culture. For now, we hope employees can become more aware of their mental health. 

How is the role of HR in mental health compare to that of a social worker’s?
In terms of their similarities, neither are doctors. They are facilitators that can refer resources to people in need. The difference is that HR can do more. They are the culture enablers who can build the culture of trust.  

HR cannot change employees. However, since HR is about people essentially, they are capable in building a workplace culture that encourages open conversation and also stopping some destructive behaviour when they spot it. 

HR are no saints. They need to walk the talk, take care of their own mental health, and spread their energy to others.

Is HR qualified?
I always say, HR needs to be all rounded. They need to know system and IT knowledge. They need to have certain financial knowledge to explain cost and impact when they talk to business leaders. They also need to be familiar with marketing as they need to do packaging, promotion, social media.

HR needs practice so they will know how to encourage a colleague to speak more and learn what kind of response works or doesn't work for certain type of people. 

Tell us one common misconception about workplace mental health most people think are true.

People usually have polarised views towards mental health sufferers. They either discredit the illness or magnifying it as madness. But actually in different stages of life, there will be challenges for everyone. And it is natural that we might not feel pleased to all of them.

Mental health is like a banking account. It is natural that you withdraw money from your account, but the problem is whether you deposit money into the account, so the account can keep running. In the case of mental health, the key is whether you are aware of the warning signs and whether you know when to seek help.

If we as HR can help them build the awareness, even though they feel down sometimes, they know how to overcome them.