Accredify Digest: 5 Initiatives to Improve Mental Health in the Workplace
Considering the many hours we spend working every day, our work environment significantly impacts our mental health. And in a post-pandemic world where new ways of working have created workplace stressors for many, prioritising employees’ well-being has become more important than ever before.
In this edition of Accredify Digest, COO Jing Yi reflects on the importance of prioritising employees’ mental health every day through supportive company culture, well-being initiatives, and a flexible work model.
Since the pandemic first broke out in March 2020, employees all over the world have been put through long periods of isolation and uncertainty, adapting to great changes in both their working relationships and environments. As a result, 80% of employees reported a negative impact on their mental health after working from home, with 74% experiencing a new mental health issue.
Research shows that a workplace that values the mental health of employees is more likely to attract better talent, retain employees, and foster a strong sense of community and engagement at the workplace – positively impacting work output and value. The reverse is just as true – companies that do not value the mental health of employees face higher rates of attrition. Take this article from Harvard Business Review for example, which reports that 50% of millennials and 75% of Gen-Zs have chosen to leave jobs due to mental health reasons. With these insights in mind, it is clear that it is becoming increasingly important that companies must prioritise the well-being of their employees to successfully engage the next generation of the workforce.
At Accredify, we recognize the effect workplace stress can have on our daily lives, and vice-versa – especially in our post-pandemic world. To manage workplace stress, we have put in place various solutions to improve mental well-being, ensure a physically comfortable office space and, most importantly, build a culture grounded in empathy and support for our employees’ well-being.
1. Hybrid work
Flexible working hours
At Accredify, we value work performance and do not believe in traditional measures of productivity, such as clocking in a certain number of hours in the office and enforcing reporting times. Instead, we trust our team to make the necessary adjustments to their working hours that best allows them to balance work tasks and their lives, so that they can safeguard their own mental well-being.
While some companies have embraced a full return to the office, a study by McKinsey has found that more than 1 in 3 employees experienced a negative impact on their mental health after their return. With research showing negative impacts on mental health from both fully remote and fully on-site work environments, it is important that companies find a balance and policy that works best for their team.
Like many other companies, we have found that a hybrid work model works best for our team now that we have transited to an endemic COVID-19 state. A recent well-being survey we conducted at Accredify revealed that 96% of employees have found hybrid working beneficial to their mental well-being, with 82% saying it is giving them more energy to practice the lifestyle they want.
Research from Accenture also found this flexible approach to be successful for overall productivity, with 40% of employees reporting that they found themselves to be more productive and healthier with a hybrid working model. To provide a work model that is suitable to each individual’s needs, Accredify’s employees are given the choice to choose their office and work-from-home days themselves, which enables them to find the flexibility and work-life rhythm that best suit their needs.
Most importantly, our hybrid model allows employees to work at a time and place where they feel the best and most productive. They are no longer constrained to a rigid schedule or location, and depending on their working style, can take the regular breaks that they need. Instead of being confined to a 9-5 rotation with a fixed one-hour lunch break, employees are given the flexibility to manage their own time, pace, and schedule, which ultimately creates greater overall autonomy, job satisfaction, and mental well-being.
2. Annual wellness allowance
Apart from taking more frequent breaks, our mental well-being can also be improved by creating more positive lifestyles and consistent routines. Studies have shown that physical exercise and learning new skills can have a significant impact on our mental health, and lessen the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.
To encourage employees to maintain an active lifestyle and pick up new hobbies, Accredify offers a Wellness Allowance for all full-time employees. This can be used for a wide variety of wellness expenses such as gym memberships, sports equipment, upskilling, therapy sessions, improving their work-from-home setup, and more.
The Wellness Allowance gives our employees the freedom to engage in activities that interest them and improve their overall comfort, which enhances mental well-being.
3. No-Call Wednesdays
Work-life rhythm plays a big part in determining our overall physical and mental state, and policies in the workplace dictate the work-life rhythm that employees are subject to. With the shift towards remote and hybrid working, quick chats and huddles by our colleagues’ desks at the office are being replaced by more frequent, short online meetings according to this study.
Moving from one meeting to another often requires a shift in headspace and can disrupt our workflow – leading to what some researchers call Meeting Recovery Syndrome (MRS). MRS can be described as the mental drain after an unengaging or ineffective meeting. This can cause psychological stress from our resources feeling threatened or lost, resulting in lowered stamina, focus and motivation in the recovery time after a meeting.
To address this, Accredify has implemented ‘No-Call Wednesdays’ to provide employees with the time and headspace for quiet, sit-down, disturbance-free work. This way, our employees get a dedicated day to fully focus and work through their to-do lists without the mental stressors of balancing their tasks with frequent meetings and work calls.
4. Physical comfort in the office
The state of our mental health cannot be disassociated from the state of our physical comfort. Given the amount of time spent working throughout the week, creating a physically comfortable work environment is important to ensure mental well-being in the workplace. Accredify’s recent well-being survey revealed that improving physical comfort in the office, such as creating dedicated rooms for relaxation and play, is an effective initiative to improve mental health at the workplace, with 89% of employees indicating that it has benefitted their mental well-being at work.
The physical work environment consists of ergonomic, individual workspaces, shared spaces for interaction with colleagues, rest areas, private rooms, and more. Apart from individual workspaces, Accredify’s office provides various shared workspaces named after our corporate values, including meeting rooms and discussion pods for employees who need some privacy or quiet time.
Our Empathy Room is one example of Accredify’s dedicated workspaces. It is a fully blacked-out, lockable room that offers employees complete privacy to attend to any personal matters. Whether you need to take a quick nap, say a prayer, nurse, or just some quiet time to yourself, the Empathy Room allows the team to press pause on a hectic day, and take a moment for themselves.
We have also created the Innovation Room – a space for our team to relax during the day or unwind with colleagues after work. Designed to feel like a living room, the Innovation Room is filled with a plush sofa, vibrant bean bags, a bar table, nerf guns, board games, books, magazines, and potted plants, complete with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Singapore skyline. A physical manifestation of our culture, the Innovation Room is a vivacious space that fosters social interactions and encourages creative thinking.
5. A supportive company culture
While policies and comfortable workspaces contribute to the well-being of our team, prioritising mental health also means building, strengthening, and protecting a culture that recognises the importance of good mental health.
To build a culture that places employees first, it is important to normalise talking about mental health in the workplace. Results from the Singapore Mental Health Study show that more and more people are experiencing mental health disorders in Singapore. This worrying statistic points to the importance of creating a safe space for discussing mental health, and seeking help when needed, without the stigma that is often associated with it.
If an employee is suffering from a mental health issue, access to the resources they need must be a high priority, combined with support from the people around them. Unfortunately, the stigma around mental health issues often hinders people from reaching out for help when they need it most.
As such, it is important for companies to build a diverse and inclusive culture that does not discriminate against employees that may be working through mental health issues. To ensure an inclusive workplace that reflects our company values, Accredify is currently in the midst of setting up a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion branch that will oversee company policies and initiatives regarding LGBTQI+, mental health, and other diversity and well-being issues.
Next steps and resources
Research has shown that poor mental health has a direct negative impact on businesses through lowered productivity and employee morale – proving the importance of a culture that prioritises employees’ mental well-being. At Accredify, we strongly believe in the importance of building an employee-centric company. Our team is the backbone of the work that we do, and we believe in the responsibility of caring for our employees to enable them to succeed.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, workplace norms as we once knew them have shifted to a new normal with different employee needs. With these changes to workplace norms and employee needs, the solutions and strategies that enabled growth in the past may no longer be relevant in today’s climate. Companies are now presented with the unique opportunity to re-establish their company culture, policies and working models. An example to consider would be how adopting a hybrid work-model can offer many benefits to boost the well-being of employees in this new landscape.
To find the top initiatives to focus on, we conducted a well-being survey for all Accredify’s employees. The results showed that hybrid work has had the biggest impact on mental health out of the six initiatives listed in this article, with 96% of all respondents saying it has benefited their mental well-being.
This is how impactful each initiative has been on the mental well-being of our employees, ranked from most to least impactful:
1. Hybrid work (96%)
2. Physical comfort in the office (89%)
3. A supportive company culture (89%)
4. Flexible annual leave (89%)
5. Annual wellness allowance (82%)
6. No-Call Wednesday (50%)
*As part of the survey, we have also gathered the team’s feedback, and are working on further refining our well-being initiatives to see how we can better support and improve our team’s mental health.
Accredify encourages companies to review their current policies and wellness initiatives to build a more inclusive company culture that provides support to employees who may need it. Managers who show genuine care for their employees foster a strong sense of belonging, which enhances job satisfaction, overall job productivity, and mental well-being.
To start, companies can start by speaking with their employees on how they can create a caring and supportive environment. Companies must take the feedback and utilise them not only in theory, but also in execution.
If you are an employee who is working through mental health issues, please consider reaching out to someone you trust who can help improve your situation at work or even just be a listening ear. Some options could be either a trained professional or the HR department at your company.
See the resources below for more information on the mental health support available to individuals, and sources on research and studies about how companies can create a more supportive culture.
Support hotlines in Singapore:
- National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868
- Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline (6389-2222)
- Samaritans of Singapore (1800-221-4444)
- Silver Ribbon Singapore (6385-3714)
Support hotlines in Australia:
- Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636
- eheadspace (1800 650 890)
- Lifeline (13 11 14)
- MensLine Australia (1300 78 99 78)
- MindSpot (1800 61 44 34)
- SANE Australia (1800 18 7263)
- Suicide Call Back (1300 659 467)
- Head to Health (1800 595 212)
Sources to learn more about mental health and its role in the workplace:
- Mental well-being in the workplace
- Discussing mental health with employees
- Mental health initiatives to attract and retain Gen-Z and millennial talent
- How returning to the office post-pandemic has impacted employees’ mental health
- How remote work affects employees’ mental health
- Hybrid work models as the future of work
- How learning new skills positively impacts mental health
- How exercise positively impacts mental health