Unpacking workplace mental wellness together with Li Lin

Workplace mental wellness has been in the spotlight ever since drastic changes had to be imposed on the way we work. In our interview with psychologist, Li Lin, she shares insights into Singapore's workplace mental wellness scene, which we believe will be useful for employers around the world.

Unpacking workplace mental wellness together with Li Lin

In 2021, a study shown that more than half of employees were dissatisfied with their company’s then current mental wellness initiative, and felt that topics relating to this were not discussed regularly at work. In Singapore, mental wellness in the workplace and the lack of thereof, has garnered increasing attention in recent years. We had the opportunity to speak to Li Lin, a psychology graduate from the National University of Singapore (NUS), to seek a better understanding of mental health in Singapore’s workplaces.

Hi Li Lin, please give us a short introduction of yourself, and briefly tell us about your work in your Final Year Project for university.

I'm Li Lin and I'm currently passionate about the fields of psychology and mental health. I took an interest in positive psychology in university and decided to devote my thesis to studying how the positive psychology theory, PERMA, could be applied to understand and improve workplace well-being.

Where do you think Singapore stands in terms of mental well-being in the workplace, and why do you think this is as such?

I don't have the empirical knowledge on this but from the stories I've heard since my late teenage years about the workplace, I believe there are areas for improvement on workplace well-being. From these layman experiences, current concerns could include high burnout rates and low satisfaction with one's job. This could stem from inadequacy in both employees' workplace-specific self-awareness, and employers' attention to infrastructure that encourages well-being.

What are some ways the mental wellness of employees in the workplace can be improved?

I believe these may help:

i) Better self-awareness in employees about person-environment fit and what it takes to be well and flourishing at work.

ii) Employers' support towards well-being (e.g. resources, building culture).

Could you share more about how employers play a significant role regarding mental wellness in the workplace?

Considering that any driving factors of workplace well-being would stem from employees, employers, and the interplay between the two parties, employers indeed do play a significant role. Employees can't do it alone.

How do you think employers can effectively measure the mental well-being of their employees, and what do you think is the best way to do so?

There are widely used indicators of mental well-being from research, so these could certainly be used. These could include self-reported workplace well-being, general non-workplace-specific well-being, motivation, and performance at work.

How would you envision the emphasis on mental health in future workplaces?

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, I see that there has been increased talk of and attention to mental health in Singapore and in workplaces. Every shift in emphasis towards workplace mental health would require resource reallocation and represent a shift away from what we're used to. I am not sure what it would take to incentivise employers and employees to hop on these shifts, but I'm glad there seems to at least have been more attention to it in the past 2 years. I'm hopeful the emphasis will continue to grow and I'll continue working for that wherever I can.

As we step into a new era for mental health at work, one silver lining amid these drastic changes is the acknowledgement and normalisation of mental health in the workplace. With the increased flexibility of work that is no longer confined to a single space gives rise to a similar necessary shift of the way employers manage their employees.

With the assistance of resources like Asa Team, employers can better manage and connect with their employees without the confines of space and time. Asa Team could look deeper into different areas as mentioned by Li Lin, such as burnout and employee satisfaction to better help and support employees in their work. Furthermore, with the close assimilation of employees' working and personal lives, it has become difficult to set apart professional and personal experiences. Asa Team could look into ways in which employers can get a better understanding of employees' beyond their work, and help employers better support employees more effectively in different ways.