Asia's Healthiest Workplace

Healthy vegetable lunch box on working desk

Photo by trexec/Getty Images

Background

Investing in the health and wellbeing of employees can save the private and public sectors billions of dollars every year. To help develop understanding of this, 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 Singapore. 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 2013, RAND Europe has been involved in VitalityHealth’s Britain’s Healthiest Workplace, which has surveyed over 100,000 employees and 400 employers across the UK. The findings have highlighted the importance of health and wellbeing initiatives in the workplace. In the UK, lower workplace wellbeing can lead to employees being up to 12.9 per cent less productive, which costs the UK economy up to £73 billion each year.

The AIA group, the largest independent publicly-listed pan-Asian life insurance group, has recognised the importance of promoting employee health and wellbeing in the workplace. The group is building on the success of the Britain’s Healthiest Workplace by launching its own research into the health and wellbeing trends of Asia-Pacific workplaces.

Goals

The intention is to explore the health trends in these workplaces to discover the healthiest workplaces across a range of organisation size categories. Through 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

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 fruit 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.