A longtime advocate of mental health and founder of the Emotional Inclusion in the Workforce programme, Longchamp general manager in Singapore and Malaysia Mollie Rogers Jean De Dieu is now the author of the recently published Emotional Inclusion: A Humanizing Revolution at Work, which offers a wealth of insights and solutions for companies and organisations to address issues that plague employee emotional welfare.
On World Mental Health Day, we speak to Rogers Jean De Dieu about the spread of mental health awareness in the workplace, how a capitalist society fosters emotional wellness (hint: it doesn’t), and what we can do to support one another more effectively.
GRAZIA Singapore: How has your professional background shaped your perspective on emotional wellness in the workplace?
Mollie Rogers Jean De Dieu: [Having heard] too many stories of hardship at work made it such that I could no longer keep quiet. The realness of the subject matter and the urgent need to advocate a safe platform in the corporate world, where emotions can be heard, recognised, and dealt with, for an enhanced business productivity, is no longer a nice-to-have option but a necessity.
GRAZIA Singapore: What was the journey of writing and publishing Emotional Inclusion: A Humanizing Revolution at Work like? Any unexpected high points, challenges and revelations?
Mollie Rogers Jean De Dieu: It was cognitive and spiritual marathon of sorts—a true purpose- and mission-driven labour of love! For months on end, my routine was going to bed at 9pm and waking up at 2am to write it (sometimes 3am when the going was tough!) and then kickstarting my work day. While my circadian rhythm was affected by it for a while [after putting together] this book, I can’t help but think how worth it all of it was.
GRAZIA Singapore: How is the Emotional Inclusion programme unique and effective? What elements of the programme have you implemented within Longchamp or other organisations, and what are the quantitative results you’ve seen?
Mollie Rogers Jean De Dieu: The programme draws on the latest research in positive and behavioural psychology, leadership development, and organisational change. It is tailored to the cultural DNA of each company in such a way that the modus operandi is to create a living emotional inclusion pillar from within. The programme has shown measurable improvement in leadership effectiveness, team performance and engagement, employee retention, employee well-being, and a clear lifting of the stigma behind emotional inclusion at work. All of this, in turn, creates company ambassadorship at its best and calls for richer employee recruitment overall.
GRAZIA Singapore: Since you began advocating for emotional wellness at work, how has your audience’s receptiveness to it changed?
Mollie Rogers Jean De Dieu: I have received overwhelming support from global leaders who have dared to share their voices to be forces of change on my podcast (“Emotional Inclusion”, available on iTunes and Spotify). I have had the privilege to be supported by the publisher Penguin Random House, which saw the relevance in my writing a book on the importance of this new term “Emotional Inclusion” in the workforce. I have been fortunate to meet luminaries who have aligned with my work: academics, neuroscientists, psychologists and organisational psychologists, scholars and more. I have been privy to countless people coming up to me and sharing with me their stories of hardships at work and how they too could have benefitted from a more emotionally inclusive ecosystem at work.
GRAZIA Singapore: Mental health is far more widely discussed now than it was before Covid. Is what’s being done now enough, or is it still a lot of lip service? What’s still lacking, and are things like mindfulness app subscriptions and team activities enough?
Mollie Rogers Jean De Dieu: What is still lacking is continued unfiltered authentic conversations around the subject matter and a clear mental health roadmap for companies to follow. The Covid pandemic has provided us a wealth of data showing there is a vital need to enact emotional inclusion at work. The present and future workplace revolves around an ecosystem where we have a way, and a set of values and solutions to grapple with the said issue. Team “ohm” bonding activities, 24-hour hotlines and apps are all great to have, yet they are what I call “crutches”—they help, but they are not enough to sustainably anchor emotional inclusion pillars within our companies today.
GRAZIA Singapore: How does mental health fit in with professional expectations and business targets? Is it ultimately an antagonistic relationship? For businesses, which are profit-maximising by nature, is there a limit to how far business owners and leaders can be empathetic to employees going through issues that are affecting their work performance? Can business owners and leaders ever prioritise people over business interests?
Mollie Rogers Jean De Dieu: Profitability is spearheaded by employees who ultimately feel heard and cared for. Our employees have to come first if we want to see our businesses thrive. Leaders no doubt have the lions share of responsibility in using their influence to shape more emotionally inclusive workplaces, by making sure that every living platform at work is actioning upon it, day in and day out.
GRAZIA Singapore: Would you say that, fundamentally, capitalism is at odds with good mental health? How then should we improve well-being, when the broader socio-economic system is designed to extract the products of human labour on increasingly oppressive terms?
Mollie Rogers Jean De Dieu: Yes. It’s been two hundred years since the Industrial Revolution, and yet so little has changed within the realm of caring for the humanity of the individuals we employ. The pandemic has shed tremendous light on the crucial need for emotional inclusion in our workplace, and the new generations of tomorrow will not have it any other way either. The pull is greater than us at this stage!
GRAZIA Singapore: Who gets to arbitrate which issues are worthy of support and who is in greater need of accommodation in the workplace?
Mollie Rogers Jean De Dieu: Every voice counts, no matter how big or small. We are all worthy of being heard and, just as importantly, of having our humanity be respected.
GRAZIA Singapore: How can we advocate for emotional well-being while there is still stigma against speaking out and risking professional retaliation, discrimination or disadvantage, especially in an environment of competitiveness- and scarcity-driven anxiety?
Mollie Rogers Jean De Dieu: All things are difficult before they are easy. Be bold and be brave. Speak up. When you are hired, you are hired not only for your job competencies but for who you are as a human being—you are hired for your full self. Do not [let fear] mute who you are at work.
How are the varying attitudes (e.g. among employees of different generations) towards mental health impacting how businesses implement policies and programs?
The Gen Z are definitely the ones upscaling the importance of emotional inclusion in companies. Unless they are reassured that the core humanistic organisational values are being actioned upon, they will not work for you. In a 2022 global study led by American analytics firm Gallup, it found that “60 percent of employees are emotionally detached at work and 19 percent are miserable.” Whichever way we choose to tackle emotional inclusion, the workplace is in dire need of it, and businesses are catching on.
For emotional wellness in the workplace, are we able to create real and lasting change, or are the tools available to us ultimately stopgaps?
Emotional inclusion sets out to mark actionable change that is both sustainable and regenerative (in the arena of mental health, creativity and innovation should never be muted for sheer sustainability reasons.) What Emotional inclusion does is that it gives a new legitimate and a science-backed definition and platform for companies, to allow them to spearhead emotional inclusion to amplify growth, purpose, belonging, connection, and innovation. Whether it be through DEI, HR or medical department effort—it offers a collective wholesome approach to humanising our workplace.