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Why can working in Hong Kong be so stressful? (And why health benefits matter to employees)

6 months ago by Mathew Gollop
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​Hong Kong is an incredible city that 60.8 million tourists flock to every year. It has stunning views of the ocean, impressive skyscrapers, sandy beaches and hiking trails. The diversity of environment, culture and food makes it an amazing place to work and live. Even before the impact of recent social unrest however, there exists a working culture that can be incredibly stressful, more so than working in other cities. There are a number of contributing factors and ConnectedGroup has partnered with StartupCare to research this issue and share some insights.

High Cost of Living

Hong Kong is phenomenally expensive to live in, ranked as the most expensive city for living costs alongside Singapore and Paris. Rent is amongst the highest rates in the world but unfortunately average salaries don't always stack up. In 2018, almost 44 per cent of flats in Hong Kong were renting for over HK$20,000 a month, while the average household income was HK$28,100, and HK$16,400 for an individual.

Long Working Hours

There are certain cultural considerations which add to the stress of living here. There are high family expectations placed on young people from Hong Kong, like the expectation to earn a good salary and to take care of your parents. The working hours in Hong Kong are long. In fact, according to a 2016 study by UBS, Hong Kong has the longest working week in the world with employees spending 50.1 hours on average at their workplace per week, translating into 38% more than the global average. These gruelling working weeks mean that people in Hong Kong have reduced time to socialise with friends, let alone cook nutritious meals for themselves, or get a good night’s sleep, all elements crucial in keeping stress levels down and health levels up. This is all in the context of small average living space that is gradually decreasing in size with a drop of 39 percent between 2013 and 2017.

Mental Health in the Workplace

The work environment in Hong Kong is also competitive. 68% of employees would still go to work despite feeling either physically or mentally unwell. 83% of citizens suffer from at least one skeletomuscular condition, an unfortunate by-product of spending most of the week hunched over a computer screen. The combined costs of these individual strains cost employers a staggering HK$ 5.5-12.4 billion a year.

Public Healthcare System Burdens

The public healthcare system in Hong Kong is also ill-equipped to deal with the sheer volume of residents. There are 4.39 psychiatrists for every 100,000 citizens. The wait time for A&E services at some public hospitals can go over 6 hours, and the wait time for a first visit to a public specialist can go up to 186 weeks. Many of these factors have also been cited as contributing to recent social unrest.

Providing peace of mind with a good healthcare scheme is also essential but this can sometimes be challenging for SME’s and early stage companies in particular.

Employee Health Benefits Initiatives at ConnectedGroup

As a result it is important that organisations carefully consider the health of their employees because there is a direct impact on productivity and staff morale and retention. At ConnectedGroup we have tried to look at the health of our employees as a holistic cultural/structural issue. Some of our initiatives have been:

  • Removing pressure on individuals for justifying sick days and enabling a ‘work from home’ infrastructure for days when staff are not feeling 100%

  • Offering support that goes beyond the statutory basic requirements for health related issues

  • An annual health and wellbeing related budget that staff can allocate to a new initiative each year – past activities have included kickboxing classes and installing high-end air purifiers

  • De-stigmatising mental health and creating an open conversation by demonstrating a supportive attitude and environment

  • A healthy, company-wide annual leave allowance of 20 days, rising to 30 with tenure regardless of your grade/seniority

  • Office closure during the Christmas/New Year period, with additional annual leave provided, to ensure an opportunity for end of year ‘decompression’.

Providing peace of mind with a good healthcare scheme is also essential but this can sometimes be challenging for SME’s and early stage companies in particular. We partnered with StartupCare Hong Kong because they provide tailor-made employee health benefits solutions that combine an innovative digital healthcare platform and flexible group medical insurance for entrepreneurs and their growing teams in startups and SMEs. Balancing the stresses of Hong Kong work culture with the incredible opportunities that the region offers is the key to sustainable success.

To discuss talent issues in Hong Kong please feel free to reach out to me at mat@connectedgroup.com

To learn more about StartupCare and their health benefits solutions, contact Simon Yuen at simon.yuen@startupcare.co