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Nov 2017

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Dive In: Embracing diversity

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Source: Asia Insurance Review | Nov 2017

Global

A global event promoting inclusion and diversity within the insurance industry, Dive In is a three-day festival that spans 17 countries and 32 cities. Started by Lloyd’s of London in 2015, the festival navigates today’s global, multi-generational workplace, looking at making the most of a work-life blend, the importance of inclusive leadership and supporting the needs of the disabled. The programme has something for everyone.
By Ahmad Zaki
 
 
The sentiment from the five Dive In events held in Singapore – all of which encouraged and welcomed audience input – was that the modern workplace is still not inclusive for some people. While Singapore, by and large, is a fairly cosmopolitan and non-discriminatory nation, people with disabilities still suffered from unfair treatment.
 
   Mr Tan Wen Xiang, Senior Occupational Therapist at the Singapore Association of Mental Health, was quick to point out that most of this ill-treatment was due to ignorance and lack of awareness, rather than any malicious intent. “The media doesn’t help, with their portrayal of the mentally-disabled. Even the news only tends to cover extreme outliers, which gives the public a poor perception of them.”
 
Mistaken perceptions
Part of this mistaken perception is that the mentally-disabled are a danger to themselves and their environment. However, Mr Tan said that most cases of mental disabilities are benign and easily treatable with medication, with cases like anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder being common ailments many people deal with, usually without their employers ever finding out.
 
   Another mistaken perception is that the disabled – either physical or mental – are a hassle and require extra special care from co-workers and employers. Dr Marissa Lee Medjeral-Mills, Executive Director at the Disabled People’s Association, noted that most employees request minor accommodations of their employers – be it flexible working hours, time off to take care of children and family or similar – that are viewed as reasonable and rarely ever dismissed out of hand. Similarly, she said, most disabled people request minor accommodations, that are generally reasonable.
 
   For example, one audience member said that due to his hearing loss in his right ear, he simply requests to be seated on the far right during meetings and conferences. Another audience member said that most disabled people have adapted to their impairment, and that they request no special treatment from their employers or co-workers, just understanding.
 
Striking a balance
For most people, these accommodations are requested so as to help them achieve a good work-life balance, juggling, family, work and leisure in the limited time they have each day. The advent of technology in our everyday life has aided greatly in allowing that to happen, as employees are increasingly able to work remotely or have flexible hours, given that communication can be instantaneous.
 
   Ms Angela Kelly, CEO of Lloyd’s Asia said: “Being able to switch off from work is one important aspect of maintaining sound mental health, but it is getting increasingly difficult to do so as employees are constantly connected via their smartphones. I think mental well-being can be boosted if managers maintain open communication with their staff – timely feedback helps the employee know how he or she is performing, which in turn can alleviate anxiety and stress. There has been positive development undoubtedly, as many companies now provide support through professional third-parties, but there remains a need for senior leaders and key HR decision makers to lead the way in removing the stigma associated with mental well-being in the workplace.” A 
 
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