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Health and wellness

Are Hong Kong’s long hours and toxic offices driving us out of our minds?

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 July, 2018, 1:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 July, 2018, 1:03pm

I am writing to express my views on the need for employers to prioritise mental health in the workplace (“How tech companies improve employee health and boost productivity”, June 13).

Poor mental health, as a result of workplace bullying or sexual harassment, for instance, will affect productivity and increase the number of sick days taken by staff. A BBC report cited research by the Health and Safety Executive, the UK’s national regulator for workplace wellness, saying that 49 per cent of sick days in Britain are due to stress, anxiety or depression.

In Hong Kong, one in six persons is said to be battling mental health problems, a statistic that seems all the more grim when placed alongside the rising rate of youth suicide. As for the workplace, reports last year suggested that an unhealthy office culture, with long hours and overbearing bosses, is pushing staff to the brink, especially given our competitive streak and the stigma associated with mental illness.

Top of the 2018 wish list for Hongkongers: shorter working hours

I believe more companies should create a culture where “it’s OK to put your hand up and say I’m struggling”, as communications head Gareth Hopley of Pizza Hut Restaurants in the UK said last year. The company has an internal social network called “No Shame” where staff can talk about their problems, and a 24-hour helpline for advice on concerns ranging from anxiety and addiction, to fitness, dieting and relationships.

Better mental health of staff members translates to a happy, contented workforce, ensuring greater productivity for the company. This should be a win-win for both employers and workers.

Rainbow Or, Tseung Kwan O