To celebrate and create awareness on World Mental Health Day 2021, we've put together this special feature, where leaders from Experian, Pacific Healthcare Group, Deliveroo, Maxis, and more nudge us to make mental health a priority.
This story is being updated as more inputs are received, so check back often!
With inputs by Priya Sunil, Lester Tan, and Arina Sofiah.
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Come 10 October 2021 (Sunday), it's World Mental Health Day.
Recent times have seen governments and organisations learning the importance of mental health—finding a myriad of ways to enhance their mental health services, and to provide a safe space for individuals to share their demons and care for their mental health and wellbeing. (One of the positive things that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic.)
However, we've only touched the surface of this issue by raising the awareness of mental health. There is more than can be done, more that needs to be done by each and every one of us. Maybe that's why, this year's World Mental Health Day theme, by World Health Organisation (WHO), is very subtly put: "Let's make it a reality".
And let's make it a reality, shall we? To that end, Human Resources Online has put together a special feature where we reached out to HR leaders and asked them how they are prioristing their mental health, and what they are doing to boost their workforce's mental wellbeing.
HRO believes there is no stronger influence than the influence that comes from you and your peers. So, do enjoy this piece, and take care of yourself and your loved ones.
The Human Resources Online team
Chua Chai Ping, HR Director, Experian Malaysia
For me, work-life balance is key. Working from home, the line between your work and life has been blurred even more. On a whole, everything has amalgamated into one!
In the last few months, I've been more conscious in my actions. For example, now the whole family is home - my children, my husband, and I. So every day for lunch breaks, we typically try to spend 10 or 15 minutes just to sit together and have lunch so that there's a bit of a break and quality family time. Then, at about 6 or 6.30 In the evening, I now make a conscious effort to take a pause, and go out for a bit of a walk - I won't pretend I do 10,000 steps, but I try to fit in 6,000 or 7,000 steps just to get a break from the screen. So that is really a digital detox for me.
I do also do a little green detox - by taking some time to walk out to my home garden and have a look at my plants. I think I have accumulated over 100 varieties of plants to promote biodiversity in my garden.
Apart from that, I take some clear breaks at certain points of the day, even if it's just for a few minutes, then come back after dinner for a few more hours to get into my global calls.
Overall, those are the steps I take - importantly, the emphasis is on self-love, self-care, and self-compassion - if we as leaders don't practice these, then our teams will see that. So, we have to make an effort to role-model these practices for the team.
Jen Wu, VP, People, APAC & EMEA, TEAM LEWIS
Daily affirmations and exercise (yes!) are some quick and easy ways to help me reframe any negative thoughts and emotions or counter exhaustion throughout the day.
Agency life can be fast-paced. Coupled with the anxiousness and uncertainty as we navigate the ups and downs of the pandemic, keeping a strong mind and maintain physical health is a big priority for every employee, myself included. We recently added a free annual subscription to the Calm app as one of our employee benefits to help do just that. I’m a big fan of the app and use it daily to help me keep my personal mental health in good shape.
Showing vulnerability is probably one of the hardest yet most necessary traits leaders should have today.
It’s a trait most would typically associate with weakness but the truth is vulnerability can help create an environment that allows people to be open about their feelings, challenges, and the freedom to be themselves. It can strengthen trust and show that leaders are capable of being empathetic.
If employees know they are in a safe place where they can voice their struggles – personal or work-related – they’re more likely to communicate, which really is the first step to helping them stay positive, connected, and cared for in the workplace.
Jenpakorn Veerachayapornpong, Vice President People and Culture, Pacific Healthcare Group
My simple act to boost mental wellbeing before and after any meeting, presentation, or decision making is to do the breath focus or belly breathing.
In this simple, powerful technique, you take long, slow, deep breaths. I shared this simple technique with our employees while conducting a training session on 'The Power of Resilience'. Follow these two steps.
- Inhale and hold your breath for the count of four seconds, expanding your belly simultaneously and then,
- Exhale for the count of six seconds with belly in simultaneously.
Mukta Arya, Head of Human Resources, Asia Pacific, Societe Generale
The one simple act for leaders, is to have a trusting relationship with their teams, which includes providing psychological safety and creating a conducive environment to try out new things and dispel the fear of failure.
This will definitely enhance the mental wellbeing of employees, who can then thrive under a positive environment to excel. In fact, they may be more motivated to perform well, even in today's remote environment.
Sheridan Mew, Head of People and Organisation Development, Syngenta APAC
It’s easy to blur the lines between work hours and personal time, especially whilst working from home, and I’m prioritising protecting my boundaries. This includes taking regular breaks, going for daily walks, and connecting with friends and family as a way to re-energise.
As leaders, we have a responsibility to create a safe space where our team feels comfortable and open to share their feelings with us, without fear of any repercussions.
By simply asking ‘how are you?’ with the video on and my phone out of reach, allows me to remain present, and ready to listen to them and extend help where necessary.
Natasha Goenka Doctor, Head of People, Deliveroo Singapore
It goes without saying that the last 18 months of being in a global pandemic has had a devastating impact on mental health. As a leader, I strongly believe in being intentional about mental health and leading by example. One of the ways I prioritise mental health is by practicing mindfulness.
A few minutes of mindfulness practice each day allows me to stay focused, make better decisions, and overall, be more effective as a leader.
There are numerous mindfulness apps and online tools available today. Deliveroo offers free access to Headspace for all our employees. Our Operations Team is also in close and constant contact with riders to support their physical and mental wellbeing. Our in-app Rider Chat, Live Order Support, is a channel for riders to raise any issues that they are facing and get prompt assistance.
Being authentic and embracing vulnerability. As a leader, not hesitating to share personal examples of challenges or struggles will create a safe environment for teams to speak about their own mental health challenges thereby normalising the mental health conversation.
Marwan ElGamal, Head of Learning and Development, Maxis Malaysia
When a request doesn’t fit or align with my priorities, then; Its absolutely OK to Say NO! it really makes a difference, so please try it out, you don’t owe anyone anything! And remember; when saying ‘yes' and agreeable to everything, means saying 'no' to something important to you!
Leaders must learn how to let go and empower their teams.
Letting go is indeed a scary idea, as leaders we feel the necessity to be involved in everything all the time, which is impossible!
But when we start letting go, and show faith and trust in our teams, we empower them, and eventually have a greater impact and return on the team's commitment.
Wendy Yeo, Regional Head of Learning and Development, Olam International
I’m slowly but surely working on active time and work prioritisation. Sometimes, this feels like a long-lost set of personal effectiveness skills.
Having peers and team members to lean on is a blessing!
To support your teams, role-model support-seeking and accepting behaviours. Be authentic.
Ingo Laubender, Head of People, foodpanda
As a leader, it is important for me to prioritise my own mental health to set an example for my team. I make it a conscious habit to check in with myself regularly on a daily basis. Especially on busy days, I find it crucial to prioritise my tasks according to what is urgent or important to set the right focus.
Aside from that, I strongly believe in drawing boundaries and respecting them. Even something as simple as switching off notifications after working hours allows me to completely disconnect from work, and properly spend time with my kids. Secondly, I also leverage technology to manage stress and practice mindfulness. I use the rescue sessions on the Intellect app when things get intense at work, as well as other daily devotional apps to reflect and practice gratitude, so that I can grow and become a better leader for my team and the people around me.
One of the most powerful yet simple ways is to give employees the trust and autonomy to work towards their own goals at their own time.
At foodpanda, this means allowing teams to achieve worklife harmony and establishing mutual trust between leaders and team members. We do not monitor whether our employees follow strict working hours; instead, we are more focused on the outcome of their work, giving them the freedom to plan their own schedules and be accountable for their goals.
When we enable our pandas this way, we find that they are most confident, effective, and fulfilled. At the same time, I believe that the best way to support our employees is to build a psychologically-safe workplace and to recognise that employees need convenient access to holistic healthcare for both their mental and physical wellbeing.
Instead of taking a top-down approach when implementing mental health initiatives, I believe in building comprehensive mental health resources and giving our employees personalised solutions.
We recently introduced the Intellect app in April 2021 to give employees the convenience to take charge of their mental health journey at their own pace and comfort level. I like how the app uses technology for a good purpose - to help our employees grow in their career and personal lives, as well as complement foodpanda’s existing mental health initiatives in a scalable way.
Regan Taikitsadaporn, Chief Human Resources Officer at Marriott International
Finding ‘balance’ in life is key – exercising regularly and having enough sleep help me manage stress and build resilience. It is also important to find time giving back to my community in different ways – from mentoring to championing for diversity, inclusion and equity and organizing community support for LGBTQ+ groups. I’m fortunate enough to have found these opportunities at both Marriott International and outside of work, they give me a strong sense of purpose and help strike the ‘balance’ I need.
Building a culture where we check-in with each other on a regular basis is important, especially in the age of hybrid and remote working.
We should not underestimate the power of checking-in with our team and going beyond the basic “how are you?”.
Listening with intent to understand how your team members are doing and showing empathy for what they’re going through help build a strong foundation of trust and team spirit – which ultimately creates a more positive and collaborative work environment.
Image / Unsplash