Employers: Approaching Hybrid Work in the New Year

It’s the beginning of a new year, and this calls for new changes in Singapore’s employment scene. Particularly, the new year calls for a new way of work, as work from home in Singapore is no longer the default from 1 Jan 2022. Singaporeans, that means to say that it’s time to pack our bags and squeeze with the morning commute once more.  

As workers are shuffling back to offices and getting used to a forgotten routine, symptoms of burnout and exhaustion may surface. This is because the introduction of remote work has benefitted many in terms of higher flexibility and autonomy. Forcing a sudden change back to the pre-pandemic office life may require some time for readjustment. Thus, it remains imperative that employers tackle these challenges addressing employees’ mental wellbeing and take measures to create a supportive work environment for their employees.  

While most of us can agree that working in offices can ensure a certain level of productivity, employers should also understand that not all employees are ready and excited to be back in offices. Not just adding on to commute hours, meeting colleagues in person and navigating social anxiety could be a challenge for some. After all, there exist numerous personal struggles that every individual will face, and it is without a doubt that neglecting mental well-being is detrimental to productivity. 

Keeping an open channel and being equipped in holding the right conversations 

Hence, on the topic of keeping a supportive work environment for employees, one way that employers can approach hybrid work in the new year is to keep an open channel of communication. Ideally, employers should spend time to check in on employees and meet each employee where they are. However, a more macro level initiative could be investing in mental wellness initiatives to highlight the importance during these uncertain times. 

In Singapore, Senior Minister of State for Health – Janil Puthucheary – mentioned that the Health Promotion Board (HPB) has seen a rising demand for training programmes that surround the topic of equipping employers and human resource managers with skills and knowledge on how to identify symptoms of common mental health conditions among their work peers and employees. This can be a good place to begin, as navigating through mental health conversations can be tricky. With more than 7 out of 10 Singaporeans indicating that they are facing more struggles with their mental health in 2021 compared to the start of the pandemic, it is high time that employers be equipped with the necessary skills to hold the right conversations with struggling employees.  

Providing online resources 

Often, struggling individuals do not always find comfort in reaching out and speaking out about their private issues. Therefore, employers should also consider providing online resources where employees can tap on to get appropriate help. Some popular options adopted by Singaporean companies today are wellness webinars, paid counselling sessions with partner mental health organizations, chatbots, and even virtual meditation sessions that help employees relax. Such dedicated platforms can signify to employees that their mental well-being is being cared for, which is important in their transition back to the office.   

Structured team events 

The lack of face-to-face interaction coupled with Zoom fatigue can cause a bumpy return to pre-pandemic office life. Employers are also encouraged to facilitate this by holding structured activities that focus on letting employees catch up over a non-work-related activity. This can be as simple as a mandatory team lunch, or even just a meeting that let employees interact with one another to ease back into socializing beyond the screens. After all, reinforcing friendship as the working culture is proven by research to create higher engagement that will result in better work productivity.  

The bottom line is that creating a workplace culture of acceptance, respect and empathy is extremely crucial. Mental wellness has never been more relevant today, and progress in recognizing the importance of workplace well-being must be made. Employers hold great responsibility in nurturing the relationships with and amongst their employees, and such investments will definitely help organizations come out of this pandemic as a stronger employer brand and a loyal talent base.