March 28, 2023 All Articles

Rethinking Workplace Mental Health – article by Raymond Ng, CEO and Country Manager, Cigna Healthcare Singapore

Cigna leadership takes 5% Pledge to focus on mental well-being.

The world is currently in the midst of a major mental health crisis, and employers are increasingly confronted with the need to respond. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), two of the most common mental health conditions – depression and anxiety – are on the rise, costing the global economy approximately USD 1 trillion each year. The impacts of this are being felt in the workplace, with organisations increasingly acknowledging the importance of mental health and the urgent need to tackle associated stigmas.
A 2021 Mind Share Partners study of 1,500 workers in the US found that mental health issues are hurting employees and employers alike. 50% of workers have left a previous role due at least in part to mental health reasons, while 84% of respondents reported at least one workplace factor having negatively impacted their mental health in the past year.
Moreover, it is becoming clear that our well-being in the workplace is closely correlated with our overall well-being. A Cigna 360 Global Well-Being Survey carried out earlier this year with 8,800 respondents in eight markets, including 1,100 in Singapore, found that 75% of those with high workplace well-being also have high overall well-being, while half of those with low workplace well-being indicated fair or poor overall well-being. The take-away is clear: employers have to recognise their outsize role in people’s lives and actively help them thrive.
What’s behind the increase in stress levels and mental health issues?
The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted health services worldwide, including mental health services like counselling and psychotherapy. Patients already suffering mental health issues were unable to receive proper care and/or experienced exacerbated pressures, while many more people suffered from the mental toll of stress and loneliness.
We may be gradually emerging from the pandemic but new norms such as hybrid working seem to be here to stay. While many employees enjoy this new way of working and the flexibility it offers, evidence suggests it is not kind to everyone.
Last year’s Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey found that the hybrid work model is leading to virtual overload and fatigue, with those working in the hybrid model more likely to be stressed than those working fully either from office or home. Meanwhile, many younger workers reported feeling left out of social groups and the learning opportunities previously more available in day-to-day office life.
Singapore respondents ranked measures to tackle such fatigue as one of the top five well-being drivers they would like to see introduced at work. However employers are falling short with only 8% of companies in Singapore providing such support, highlighting a clear need for employers to do more to maintain a healthy workforce in this new world of work.
Mental health support isn’t just about initiatives or benefits. For too long, we have thought of and treated mental health as an individual’s responsibility – urging employees to take a bit of “self-care” leave or offering nominal workplace perks. In reality, mental health issues can’t be solved with a mental health day or a self-care campaign, at least not in isolation.
Workplace mental health is only improved with systemic cultural change.
Openness, transparency and compassion are needed to provide genuinely safe and supportive environments for employees that foster mental health and well-being. This has long been a priority for Cigna Healthcare where we take a holistic approach to health and similarly encourage our partners to deliver care across all aspects of well-being.
As part of this impetus, we have launched a global movement – the 5% Pledge – which calls upon business leaders and people managers to dedicate 5% of their annual working hours to create tangible long-term change by addressing mental health topics in the workplace. This is equivalent to two hours a week (or about one day a month) discussing, planning and implementing activities and initiatives that will establish mental health support as part of the workplace culture.
Effective change starts at the top, and besides our duty to our employees, we also have a responsibility to set an example for peers and partners. I am very proud to have taken the Pledge, as have many of my colleagues at Cigna Healthcare and others in the business community around the world. This initiative and others like it are helping to change the conversation on mental health in the workplace, normalise discussion of widespread mental health issues, and improve conditions for more productive and enjoyable work environments.
Find out more and support the 5% Pledge here.

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