Many Asian countries are well known for work cultures that can tip the work-life balance scales. In 2022, Singapore claimed the title of the most overworked country in Asia Pacific (APAC), with a disheartening 7 in 10 individuals reporting unhappiness.
Conversations around workplace culture have evolved significantly in recent years, with a growing emphasis on employee mental wellbeing. Particularly for knowledge workers - defined as those whose roles rely heavily on digital tools and encompass intellectual labour - distinct productivity and mental health challenges are intrinsically intertwined.
As we commemorate World Mental Health Day, let us explore how business leaders can cultivate a supportive and thriving workforce and how technology can play a role.
Deep focus work and mental wellbeing
In today's work environment, maintaining deep focus often feels like pursuing an elusive dream. The constant bombardment of messages, meetings, alerts, and notifications can create ‘noise’ that disrupts not only an employee’s productivity but also their mental wellbeing.
Achieving focus and engaging in deep work is important because it enables knowledge workers to tap into their cognitive and creative potential. In the long run, this produces a motivated team and a higher level of quality at work.
The role of technology
In today’s modern digital work environment, it is near impossible to ‘switch off’, due to the deluge of apps, information and distractions. This is where artificial intelligence (AI) can prove to be a powerful ally. AI-driven tools can assist knowledge workers in maintaining deep focus by automating routine tasks, reducing cognitive overload, and providing personalised suggestions for optimising workspaces and schedules.
For example, having an AI-powered search tool that connects all content and files across multiple applications can help employees easily access the most relevant information. By leveraging machine learning, such tools help employees navigate the information deluge they face daily. Let it be clear that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to employee support. However, AI's capacity for personalisation is a good start to create a tailored approach towards each employee’s workflow, including navigating the wealth of information, streamlining tasks and carving out time for deep focus work.
Ultimately, employees will be able to eliminate repetitive tasks, reduce unnecessary back and forth, and double down on what truly matters.
Walking the talk
A recent survey showed that 64% of APAC employees want their job to provide a sense of fulfilment and meaning, yet only 36% are supported by their employer when it comes to physical and mental well-being.
A company’s values will determine the north star and purpose of the work, but employees are also looking towards leaders to not only talk the talk but also walk the walk. Leaders need to articulate their organisation’s core values and more importantly practice those values in demonstrable ways.
For example, leaders should consider setting up internal initiatives to promote mental wellness. This could be in the form of mental health workshops or employee resource groups (ERGs), where employees are encouraged to connect and share personal experiences or employee assistance programs, where employees are able to access mental health resources. These initiatives create a sense of community and psychological safety.
In addition, rolling out company-wide initiatives that promote mental health and well-being sends a strong signal to employees that this is a priority for the company and its leaders. For example, Dropbox recently rolled out ‘Company Focus Days’ once a month. On this day, we ask our teams to avoid scheduling meetings where possible to enable everyone across the company to engage in deep work.
While there is no one size fits all approach to mental health and well-being in the workplace, there are best practice examples that break down internal barriers and facilitate a more open culture on the topic.
Essentially, this is about establishing a shared organisational focus on mental health and well-being, and following that up with tangible initiatives.
On this World Mental Health Day, let us recognise that every worker deserves to do their best work while prioritising their mental health. For any forward-thinking organisation to excel in today’s world, the key lies in harnessing both the power of technology and human connection to create a supportive and thriving workplace.