Happier Workers for Better Business. A Better Singapore.

Anthea Indira Ong
4 min readMay 19, 2018


It should come as no surprise that Singapore was ranked 34th in the recent World Happiness Index (Mar 2018) from UN Sustainable Development Solutions. (Finland is world’s happiest country, Singapore ranks 34th: UN)

With 70% of the population working and most of us spending 1/3 (or more) of our lives at work, the workplace could very well be the source of this ‘unhappiness’. Especially when recent findings by 2018 Global Engagement Trends Study showed Singapore workers to be the least engaged at 59% (Indonesia 76%, Philippines 71%, China 69%, Thailand 64%, Malaysia 63%) and the AON Benefits Strategy Study 2017 revealed that 72% of Singapore firms are affected by workers’ mental stress. More young professionals are suffering from burnout and psychologists also attributed workplace stress as the root cause of 90% of psychological conditions. (More young professionals suffering from burnout.)

So it should also come as no surprise that we have been struggling with lacklustre productivity numbers with the above causalities. We need to urgently address workplace stress as an increasing challenge to our productivity and innovation so as to move Singapore towards being a stronger and more resilient economy, and society. We need to bring back ‘human’ in human resources. Thinking of human capital in terms of income and productivity is reductive — we need a more holistic approach.

Only 51% firms surveyed by AON have emotional and psychosocial programmes in place. Since 2014, Hush TeaBar — led by the Deaf and persons with mental health issues — has been advocating workplace wellness by bringing self care and social inclusion to workplaces through tea reflection across Singapore. Employee wellbeing must be seen as a strategic concern, a leadership priority. Beyond a hip office and the great coffee, how can we build a supportive culture that builds empathy, resilience and innovation? How do we create an environment that allows for conversations about stress and mental health issues?

Businesses as a force for good must include employee wellbeing in corporate responsibility because each employee is part of our community, our society. As leaders, we have the influence and responsibility to create the kind of organisations that will support the society that we want to live in.

With this in mind, a group of leaders from diverse organisations (including DBS, Johnson&Johnson, NUHS, TTSH, Edelman, Deloitte, NCSS etc) and I came together to form the WorkWell Leaders Workgroup on 4 May 2018 to share, discuss and co-create inclusive practices for a more caring and resilient workplace.

The huddle was less of ideas (definitely not targets!), but more of hearts because to move forward together to influence change, we must first believe we share the same core intent so we can co-create the ‘whats’ and ‘hows’ ahead.

This first meeting was successful in establishing our collective agreement on the following premises for our way forward:

  1. That this WorkWell Leaders Workgroup (WLW) is necessary, timely and relevant for sharing, discussing and finding solutions to improve workplace wellbeing.
  2. That each of us are committed to being an agent of change within our respective organisations as well as being part of this collective effort for positive change and inclusion for Singapore.
  3. That the top aim for this Workgroup is to make workplace wellbeing (mental health) a strategic concern, a leadership priority — not just HR’s.
  4. That this is a private sector-driven national effort in partnership with NCSS (National Council of Social Service) and other appropriate agencies.
  5. That we must involve SMEs, large corporates and business associations such as SBF and the chambers of commerce.

Leaders shared their current inclusive practices with each other. Some examples include:

· Workplace safety and health, stress management, physical and health programmes

· Third party counselling services (Employee Assistance Programmes), hotlines

· Welfare committees and staff recreational teams

· Time off to volunteer, participate in programmes or early releases eg. eat with family once a month etc.

· Flexible work arrangements (telecommuting)

· Healthy diet guidelines

· Mental Health Warriors trained in mental health first aid to provide a listening ear to other colleagues and to encourage help-seeking behaviours.

This is an adaptive effort, and a national one for now. The leaders are looking forward together to influence change — much work to be done. It is our hope that we move from sharing to collaboration to collective action — for happier workers, better business and a better, and happier, Singapore. How can you care more?

Please contact me at anthea@hushteabar.com if you are interested to contribute to this workgroup.



Anthea Indira Ong

A full-time human, and part-time everything else.