- SPS Workplace Mental Health Symposium
September 17, 2022
1:00 pm - 6:30 pm
SPS Workplace Mental Health Symposium
Date: 17 September (Saturday)
Time: 1pm – 6:30pm
Delivery: Live Online Session via Zoom
Cost: SPS Members – $30, Non-members – $60, Student Members – $10
Mental health in the workplace has been a growing concern and focus of governments and organization leaders. This is especially with increasing complexities and demands from globalization, technological advancements, cost efficiencies, remote work arrangements, and more recently, COVID-19 and its impact on the global workforce. Further, issues such as inconsistent management, workplace bullying, and harassment continue to persist even with the evolving definition of a ‘workplace’.
The inability to cope with these stressors may lead to increased risks of burnout, anxiety and
depressive disorders, and substance use as observed in employees. Governments and organizations have therefore placed greater emphasis on mental health support to address these issues in the workplace.
In line with this, the Singapore Psychological Society is pleased to present the ‘Workplace Mental Health Symposium’. This symposium includes a panel of experts and clinicians who will be sharing and discussing workplace issues, support strategies, as well as ongoing and evolving challenges, for the betterment of the well-being of individuals across different workplace settings.
Overall Introduction and Synopsis
Keynote 1: Sustainability, Leadership, and Wellbeing: New Insights
Presenter: Professor Emeritus Tony Machin
Professor Emeritus Tony Machin FAPS FCOP is a psychological scientist and organisational researcher with a focus on assessing and improving health, safety, and wellbeing in the workplace. Professor Machin has consulted with a wide range of clients including Queensland Health, the Department of Public Works, Main Roads, Queensland Transport, the Department of Industrial Relations, Queensland Treasury, and the Department of Emergency Services. He has completed needs analyses, organisational climate surveys, programme evaluations, and organisational improvement initiatives which involved the analysis of data from between several hundred to over 15,000 respondents.
Leadership matters and the world need good leaders more than ever. Leaders play a key role in helping to shape the way organisations respond to the major challenges facing the planet, including climate-related changes, moves towards sustainability, and elimination of workplace hazards and injuries. The Business Roundtable (2019) has defined the purpose of business as creating benefit for all stakeholders, including customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and shareholders. Therefore, leadership that contributes to delivering these benefits must focus on sustainability and wellbeing. Sustainability leadership emphasises the organisation’s responsibility to its society. This presentation provides the insights that are needed to lead sustainably in the uncertain and volatile environment that we are all facing.
Keynote 2: Breaking the Silence on Violence
Presenter: Ms Hoon Shu Mei
Ms Hoon Shu Mei is a director of Dispute Resolution at Drew & Napier, specialising in private client and matrimonial disputes. She is recognised as one of the leading family law specialists in Singapore. Outside of practice, Shu Mei speaks regularly about family law, succession planning, as well as mediation and dispute resolution. She is also a co-author of various academic articles and practitioner guides both locally and internationally, and sits on various professional committees and panels.
Surveys in recent times have shown that workplace harassment remains a prevalent issue in Singapore. In 2019, it was reported that almost a quarter of Singapore workers have been bullied in the workplace – one of the highest percentages in the world.
This keynote speech explores the types of workplace conduct that are considered unlawful harassment, the legal remedies for victims, and employers’ guide to manage and prevent incidents of workplace harassment; with a focus on practical guidelines and legal frameworks that cultivate a harassment-free workplace that allows employees to focus on contributing their best at work, and how employers may support employees if they are victims of harassment and family violence.
Clinical Psychology SIG: Psychological Well-Being across the Employee Life Cycle
Presenter: Mr Benjamin Low
Mr Benjamin Low specializes in providing adult psychological services. He has worked with clients in the early-career stage, specifically those who are established professionals in specialist or managerial roles, as well as C-suite officers and others in senior management. He has worked in hospitals, private practice, and also as a corporate in-house psychologist providing clinical services and consultation to a NYSE-listed corporation.
Benjamin also manages corporate well-being services at Psych Connect, provides training, as well as general consultancy to a variety of companies and industries. In addition, he provides psychotherapy for a variety of psychiatric and functional health problems. These includes mood and anxiety disorders, trauma, ADHD, insomnia, and pain management, amongst other challenges.
Employees, top executives, and even business owners go through a life cycle within a given role. The life cycle can be roughly broken down into three phases: Adjustment to novelty upon starting a new role, stressor management while performing the role, and the process of transitioning out of the role. Discussion of common challenges in each phase and how psychological services can benefit individuals and companies throughout the employee life cycle will be covered in this plenary.
Counselling Psychology SIG: Lessons Learned from COVID-19: How to Manage Compassion Fatigue in the Workplace
Presenter: Dr Elizabeth Nair
Dr Elizabeth Nair is CEO and Principal Psychologist of Work &Health Psychologists (WHP) since 2004. Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA) and Fellow of the Singapore Association for Counselling. Recipient of the APA Distinguished International Psychologist Award in 2001 and the inaugural Award for Outstanding Service to Psychology in Singapore (AOSPS) in 2003. She is a four non-consecutive term former President of the Singapore Psychological Society. She was Chief Psychologist in MINDEF and tenured academic at the National University of Singapore. Over the last fifteen years she has been working mostly with multinational companies in Singapore in training, coaching and workplace consultation.
COVID-19 and the implementation of WFH (Work From Home) eliminated close visual cue monitoring of employees. WFH enabled employees to have control over their work, make decisions, and determine the importance of tasks and processes to complete their work allowing for greater employee empowerment. Job empowerment was identified in recent empirical research as the single factor that unilaterally contributed most to employee job engagement (Donovan, 2022).
As we move towards post-pandemic, the lessons learned need to be translated to organisational workplace practices for Hybrid and Back to Workplace settings. The lingering impact of possible long COVID, secondary trauma, compassion fatigue, and a critical need to provide for consultation time for employees to address mental health challenges are clearly indicated.
Educational Psychology SIG: An Educational Psychologist’s Personal Journey to Managing Work Demands and Professional Boundaries
Presenter: Ms Eulisia Er
Ms Eulisia Er is an educational psychologist working with individuals with special needs from 18 months to 65 years of age and across a spectrum of presentations. She has extensive experience in conducting assessments, behaviour management support, and psychological interventions to individuals with special educational and developmental needs. She also has a keen interest in early intervention, home-school partnership, and parenting.
Numerous stressors such as heavy administrative workloads, negative experiences with clients, lack of professional development, and greater work demands are prevalent in the work of psychologists. While it is common knowledge that engagement in self-care promotes well-being, many practitioners often overlook their own needs while helping their clients move toward well-being. This is especially so for early career psychologists, who placed self-care at the end of their to-do-lists, often prioritizing their clients’ needs before theirs. Having worked in various work settings over the past decade, this plenary will feature the speaker’s personal journey to help maximise work-life balance and prevent burnout.
Group Psychotherapy SIG: Collective Strengths and Experiences – A New Default Form of Support at the Workplace
Presenter: Mr Viknesan
Mr Viknesan has an extensive experience in the counselling field as a Senior Counsellor, Team Lead, Trainer, Clinical Supervisor, Counselling and Clinical Consultant, and Adjunct Academic. Some of the organisations he has contributed in includes the SINDA Family Service Centre and the National Addictions Management Services (NAMS) at the Institute of Mental Health. He has also taught courses in addictions, group facilitation, and ethics at the university level in multiple institutions, as well as supervised students at the Singapore University of Social Sciences in the masters and undergraduate counselling programmes. Mr Viknesan sits on various boards and committees, and specialises in co-occurring disorders and addictions such as substance abuse and gambling.
As Malcolm X once said, “If you replace the ‘I’ in illness with ‘WE’, illness becomes wellness.” In this plenary, Yalom’s 11 curative factors help participants with similar struggles bond and support each other in times of post COVID-19, aims to establish work-life balance, and practise self-care to minimise occupational burnout. There is an increasing trend of agencies employing workplace peer support programmes as a new default form of support to aid employees’ struggles with problems and challenges, as well as using group strength and collective life experiences to help one another at the workplace.