Asia's Healthiest Workplace

Healthy vegetable lunch box on working desk

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Overview

Investing in the health and wellbeing of employees can save the private and public sectors billions of dollars every year. To help develop an understanding of this, for the second consecutive year AIA Vitality has asked RAND Europe, alongside academic institutions, to conduct The Healthiest Workplace by AIA Vitality — a comprehensive survey of the health and wellbeing of employees across Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia and, for the first time, Thailand and Sri Lanka. The Healthiest Workplace by AIA Vitality surveys a broad range of organisations and their workforces from many different industries, in order to determine each country’s healthiest employer, employees and overall workplace.

Since the initiative started in Asia, the study has helped nearly 350 organisations and 36,400 individual employees from 6 countries (Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand) to gain a greater understanding of their personal health and wellbeing.

The competition's surveys, managed by RAND Europe, have provided numerous key findings, including:

  • Results from the 2018 survey show that respondents who experience bullying in the workplace lose on average 30 more days to absenteeism and presenteeism compared to other respondents.
  • The 2017 survey found that approximately 60% of respondents across all countries have at least some financial concerns, compared to 48% in the UK.

Background

Since 2013, RAND Europe has been involved in VitalityHealth’s Britain’s Healthiest Workplace competition, which has surveyed over 150,000 employees and 460 employers across the UK. In 2017, the AIA Group, the largest independent publicly-listed pan-Asian life insurance group, recognised the importance of promoting employee health and wellbeing in the workplace and together with RAND Europe launched the Healthiest Workplace by AIA Vitality.

Goals

The intention of the survey is to explore the health trends in different workplaces to discover the healthiest workplaces across a range of organisation size categories. By analysing the data on employee lifestyle, clinical indicators, mental health and other areas of concern, the project aims to assess the associated impact these areas have on the health and productivity of the Asian-Pacific workforce.

Read the AIA press release

Findings

Year 2: 2018

In its second year, over 26,000 respondents from 393 organisations participated in Asia’s Healthiest Workplace in Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand and Sri Lanka. Over 47% of the respondents were managers (e.g. business executives) or professionals (e.g. lawyers or doctors), while junior professionals, support and service workers were relatively underrepresented. Most of the respondents came from the financial and insurance sector, followed by the manufacturing and human health and social work activities sectors.

Productivity and engagement

  • The results indicate that the respondents lost from 19% (Sri Lanka) to 30% (Hong Kong) of their working hours due to absence (3% on average) and presenteeism* (24% on average). This is significantly higher than in the UK (14%).
  • This translates to more than 73 days of work time lost per respondent per year in Malaysia, and more than 78 days in Hong Kong. Sri Lanka showed the least time lost at 49.3 days.
  • Productivity loss appears to significantly decrease with age, as respondents aged 50+ showed almost half of the productivity loss of those aged 21-35 (16% compared to 30%).
  • About 19% of the respondents showed high work engagement, the highest figure being in Thailand (27%) and the lowest in Hong Kong (10%).
  • Comparatively, 13% of respondents showed signs of low work engagement. This phenomenon was more pronounced in Hong Kong (28% of respondents), and more uncommon in Sri Lanka (7%) and in Thailand (8%).

* Note: Presenteeism may be defined as being present at work but being limited in some aspects of job performance by a health problem and thus experiencing decreased productivity and below-normal work quality. This is different to absence, which is generally defined as not showing up for work.

Mental health

  • Approximately 71% of respondents across all countries indicated at least some financial concerns. 21% reported being seriously concerned by their financial situation, a figure that has increased significantly since 2017 (16%).
  • More than half of all the respondents face at least one dimension of work related stress.
  • About 11% of respondents in the 21-30 age group indicated that they suffer from depression. This is much higher than for the rest of the population (5%).
  • More than 21% of respondents in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand are at least sometimes subjected to bullying at the workplace, compared to 11% in Australia and 10% in the UK. In Sri Lanka, this number rises to a third of respondents.
  • More than 27% of respondents in Thailand indicated they struggle to decide when to take a break, compared to 7% in Australia.

Physical health and lifestyle

  • More than 83% of respondents reported having at least one type of musculoskeletal condition. Almost half the respondents reported at least two of these.
  • About 38% of respondents do less than the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week, with such inactivity being the most common in Malaysia (46%) and least common in Australia (10%).
  • Around 40% of the surveyed employees were either obese (14%) or overweight. Hong Kong had the highest obesity rate, with 21% of its respondents having a body mass index (BMI) of over 30, while the lowest rate was in Thailand (7.6%).
  • Only 1% of respondents in Thailand, Malaysia and Sri Lanka said they drink more than the recommended amount of alcohol per week, compared to 16% in Australia and 30% in the UK.
  • On average Hong Kong, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand have a significantly worse diet, with 76% of respondents not eating at least five portions of fruits and vegetables per day, compared to 50% in Australia.

Interventions offered by organisations

  • On average, each organisation offers 18 workplace health interventions such as fresh fruits and vegetables in the workplace or clinical screening.
  • Approximately 9% of participating organisations do not offer any of the 75 workplace health interventions included in the survey.
  • 88% of respondents who participated in any given intervention felt positive effects on their health, but only 14% were on average aware of the interventions on offer. The awareness rate is particularly low in Hong Kong (8.3%) and in Sri Lanka (9.0%).

Year 1: 2017

In its first year, over 10,000 respondents from 104 organisations participated in Asia’s Healthiest Workplace in Australia (AU), Hong Kong (HK), Malaysia (MY) and Singapore (SG). Over 60% of the respondents were managers (e.g. business executives) or professionals (e.g. lawyers or doctors), while junior professionals, support and service workers were relatively underrepresented. Most of the respondents came from the financial and insurance sector, followed by the professional, scientific and technical activities, and manufacturing sectors.

Productivity and engagement

  • The results indicate that the respondents lost from 17% (AU) to 27% (HK) of their working hours due to absence (2% on average) and presenteeism* (22% on average). This is significantly higher than in the UK (12%).
  • This translates to more than 65 days of work time lost per respondent per year in MY and more than 70 days in HK.
  • Productivity loss significantly decreases with age, as respondents aged 50+ show less than half of the productivity loss of those aged 21-35.
  • 15% of the respondents in AU show high work engagement, compared to 12% in MY, 11% in HK and 9.8% in SG.
  • However, 25% of the respondents in HK show low work engagement, compared to 18% in MY, 17% in SG and 13% in AU.
  • On average, respondents in the Asian countries work 12 hours per week more than their contracted hours, compared to 4 hours in the UK.

* Note: Presenteeism may be defined as being present at work but being limited in some aspects of job performance by a health problem and thus experiencing decreased productivity and below-normal work quality. This is different to absence, which is generally defined as not showing up for work.

Mental health

  • Approximately 60% of respondents across all countries have at least some financial concerns, compared to 48% in the UK.
  • Respondents (particularly in HK) face high amounts of work-related stress.
  • More than 15% of respondents in the 21-30 age group indicate that they suffer from depression.
  • Almost 20% of respondents in HK, MY and SG are at least sometimes subject to bullying, compared to 9% in AU and 7% in the UK.
  • More than 23% of respondents in HK cannot decide when to take a break, compared to 8% in AU and the UK.

Physical health and lifestyle

  • More than 80% of respondents have at least one type of musculoskeletal condition.
  • Over 60% of respondents in HK, MY and SG do less than the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week, compared to 36% in AU and the UK.
  • Only 1% of respondents in HK, MY and SG drink more than the recommended amount of alcohol per week, compared to 16% in AU and 29% in the UK.
  • However, HK, MY and SG also have a significantly worse diet, with 86% of respondents not eating at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables per day, compared to 51% in AU and 46% in the UK.

Interventions offered by organisations

  • On average, each organisation offers more than 12 workplace health interventions such as fresh fruits and vegetables in the workplace or clinical screening.
  • Approximately 6% of participating organisations do not offer any of the 75 workplace health interventions included in the survey.
  • Majority of respondents who participated in any given intervention felt positive effects on their health, but only 16% on average are aware of the interventions on offer.