The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that Covid-19 has led to a 25% rise in the prevalence of anxiety and depression globally. Although it is commonly known that the pandemic has had a severe influence on mental health, the situation existed long before COVID-19 was discovered. An increase from an earlier research in 2010 showed that one in seven Singaporeans have had a mental condition in their lifetime. 

At work, this is especially true. Struggles with mental health have always had a negative impact on employee wellbeing and corporate profitability. The new realities of working from home and social isolation, whether a firm is switching to a remote or hybrid structure, amplify emotions of anxiety, stress, and burnout. 

Another persistent worry is the possibility of getting the virus when going back to the office. Additionally, because of their increased burden, employees now take on more duties, put in longer hours, and have fewer opportunities to request vacations. These indicate a serious issue.

Employees' performance, productivity, engagement, and communication, as well as their physical capacities and day-to-day functioning, can all be significantly impacted by poor mental health and stress.

As an employer, you may question whether your employees are actually underperforming or facing mental health struggles. So how should you handle such uncertain situations? 

Firstly, you can talk about performance-related issues, but not personality ones. If you need to have a difficult conversation with a subpar employee, concentrate on actions rather than characteristics. Individuals may feel personally targeted in these tense situations. Give specific instances of recent mistakes and present facts rather than opinions. We all agree that saying "you have been sloppy lately" sounds more hurtful than saying "there have been three missed deadlines this month."

Secondly, provide assistance and flexibility. When an employee confesses a mental health concern, it might be helpful to collaborate to come up with practical solutions. Do they feel like they have too much to do? Do you need to make their jobs easier? Can a flexible schedule help them? Or do they need to completely miss work? Employees are less reluctant to ask for assistance when the correct questions are asked of them. After that, you can agree to put these adjustments into place.

Lastly, you may create a plan for performance improvement. A formalised performance management framework may be utilised as a last resort when underperformance continues despite acceptable accommodations. Such plans are tools that enable workers with performance or behavioural challenges to succeed. Goals are established to be completed within a predetermined time frame in order to address recurring issues. This is a joint effort, and the employer and employee must both agree to it. Once it is put into practice, the manager will keep an eye on the worker to see whether he is improving or address areas where he can do better.

Should you know of anyone who needs help in dealing with mental health struggles, reach out to any counselling centres or contact us as soon as possible. 

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