Survey finds HK employees struggling with physical and mental health, EAP improves well-being, 38.8% of respondents experienced ‘very high work stress’

From left: Mr Nathaniel SUEN, Research Associate, Four Dimensions Consulting Limited; Dr Jackie CHAN, Research & Advocacy Officer, HKCS; Dr Klaris LEUNG, Clinical Psychologist and Case Manager, Four Dimensions Consulting Limited; Ms Sandra LAI, Senior Consultant, Four Dimensions Consulting Limited

20th June 2023 – (Hong Kong) Hong Kong’s Employee Development Service of Hong Kong Christian Service and Four Dimensions Consulting Limited have launched an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to provide physical and mental health services to employees. The move comes as the physical and mental health of Hong Kong people has become a growing concern in recent months, particularly among employees who face various life and work challenges that can have a significant impact on their performance and overall well-being.

The EAP was launched in 2011 and since then, the Hong Kong Employees Physical and Mental Health Survey has been conducted annually. The survey aims to gain an in-depth understanding of employees’ overall well-being in the workplace, and researchers interviewed 627 service users from 2011 to 2022.

The survey results reveal that 38.8% of respondents experienced ‘very high work stress‘, and 19.5% had ‘considered suicide or self-harm’. These figures indicate that the well-being of Hong Kong employees is worse than the international average. The survey used the ‘Workplace Outcome Suite’ to compare the well-being of employees in Hong Kong with those internationally, and before joining EAP, 77.8% of employees reported being ‘distracted at work’, which was about 20% higher than the international average. Additionally, 49.0% felt ‘unable to commit to work’, 48.4% were ‘dissatisfied with life’, and 34.8% were ‘afraid to go to work’, which were all significantly higher than the international average.

However, the survey also found that the EAP program was effective in improving employees’ physical and mental health, work performance, and workplace relationships. Before joining EAP, 53.8% of individuals rated their physical and mental well-being as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’. After receiving the EAP counselling service, almost 60% of them reported their wellbeing as ‘good’ or ‘very good’. Of those who initially experienced ‘very high work stress’, 70.2% reported ‘moderate’ or ‘low’ stress after using the EAP service. Additionally, 93.1% of employees who had previously ‘considered suicide or self-harm’ stated that they no longer had such thoughts after joining EAP.

Anecdotal evidence supports the survey findings. For example, Mr. Chan (pseudonym), a 50-year-old worker in the finance field, was overburdened with long working hours and overloaded with hundreds of emails every day, leading to high stress and emotional breakdown. He was also asked to carry the workload of other colleagues, which resulted in crying spells, insomnia, poor appetite, and even contemplation of suicide. In 2022, Mr. Chan sought help from the EAP provided by Four Dimensions through his company. The professional counsellor provided immediate Mental Health First Aid by assessing his suicidal risk, stabilizing his emotions, offering care and reassurance, as well as creating a supportive net that ultimately relieved him from his suicidality. After about six months of professional counselling, Mr. Chan expressed his gratitude for the support provided by Four Dimensions and said that he had made significant progress in recognizing and managing his negative emotions.

Based on the survey results, Four Dimensions makes the following recommendations:

  1. The government should subsidize small and medium-sized enterprises to implement EAP. In addition to mandating employers to provide insurance for their employees, the government should encourage their participation in EAP and provide financial support to SMEs to provide relevant services to their employees. This would contribute to the development of healthy and productive teams and help Hong Kong retain talent.
  2. Employers should train staff as ‘Mental Health First Aiders’ in the workplace. Employers should organize Mental Health First Aid training and set the ratio of Mental Health First Aiders based on job types, company size, and employee characteristics. This allows early identification and support for employees experiencing mental distress. Employers should also review staffs’ working hours, workload, and relationships between colleagues regularly to promote a culture of care and create a positive and mentally healthy working environment.
  3. Employees should equip themselves with knowledge and ways to improve physical and mental well-being. Employees are encouraged to learn stress management to improve their physical and mental well-being, including the ‘MNCPR’ five-step approach to stress reduction. In addition, awareness and understanding of mental health should be raised by learning the ‘ALGEE’ of Mental Health First Aid.

The Employee Assistance Programme is a vital initiative that has the potential to improve the physical and mental well-being of employees in Hong Kong. The recommendations made by Four Dimensions are crucial in addressing the issue of employee well-being in Hong Kong, ensuring that employees have access to the support and resources they need to maintain good health and well-being. By implementing these recommendations, the government, employers, and employees can work together to create a positive and mentally healthy working environment, resulting in increased productivity, job satisfaction, and employee retention.