2nd CEO Dialogue: Supporting employee well-being in the face of COVID-19

July 24, 2020

Private and public sector leaders have underscored their commitment to champion workplace mental well-being as a leadership priority within their organisations at the by-invitation 2nd CEOs and Leaders Breakfast Dialogue by WorkWell Leaders Workgroup (WLW) on Friday, 24 July 2020.

The dangers of social isolation arising from prolonged remote working arrangements, exacerbated by uncertainties over the economic climate amid COVID-19, have taken a toll on the mental well-being of people in Singapore. This could be observed in the increase in the number of calls made to mental health helplines in March 2020 as compared to the same period in 2019. A recent research by Profile Asia showed that nearly 1 in 2 working professionals in Singapore reported that COVID-19 has adversely affected their mental health.

Continuing the conversation of mental health as a strategic priority, this year’s dialogue was hosted by Aviva Singapore and focused on leadership responses not from the leaders’ perspective but from the employees’ needs for trust, compassion, stability and hope in order to better support employee well-being in the face of COVID-19.

The four needs came from the result of Gallup’s research on what employees need from leaders in mentally challenging times like this. For each of these needs, leaders were asked in breakout groups what each need means to them, how they sometimes lose sight of them, what can they do differently and how they can get better with responding to these needs. They reflected on how they can meet their employees’ emotional needs in the way they plan, communicate and act:


  • Trust – Speak the truth and explain how the decision was made 
  • Stability – Absorb the emotional reactions with calm   
  • Compassion – Acknowledge the negative emotional impact 
  • Hope – Elevate to how this will help the organisation in the future

Leaders were also asked at the end of the dialogue what they would change as part of their commitment to wellbeing.


Ms Anthea Ong, former NMP and social entrepreneur who started WLW, said, “COVID-19 has illuminated mental health not as a new problem, but now a much bigger one. As organisations invest in upskilling their employees, they must also become more wellbeing-centric in order to build back better towards a stronger future. This was not a dialogue about mental health programmes and policies, it was a dialogue on the critical role of leadership in workplace mental health. No one has all the answers but together, we can help each other explore new and different possibilities whilst learning from an emerging and volatile future as wellbeing-centric leaders. In the second edition of the CEO and Leaders Breakfast Dialogue by WorkWell Leaders Workgroup, it is heartening to see many returning CEOs and also new ones joining this community of leaders across various sectors to commit to mental well-being as a strategic and critical priority.”   


Also part of the dialogue but as observers were the COOs, CHROs and heads of diversity and inclusion of these top leaders to support them in translating these learnings and discussions into actions.