The working hours of Hong Kong people is long and it is considered to be on the high side globally, the creation of a healthy workplace is conducive to better mental health of employees. In order to understand and improve mental health conditions of Hong Kong employees, Tung Wah College (TWC) and The Mental Health Association of Hong Kong (MHAHK) collaborate with certain participating organisations for the launching of the “Workplace Mental Wellbeing Intervention Programme” (the “Programme”) in May 2021, aiming to determine whether the Programme will be effective in promoting and improving mental wellbeing of employees.
The first-round questionnaire survey was conducted among participating organisations during the period from 1 May to 14 May 2021, with 213 full-time employees interviewed. Amongst the respondents, more than half is male (56%); 40% aged 45 years or older（40%）; over 90% having a degree of higher education (93%); and over 60% married (64%) .
Baseline assessment indicates that over 60% respondents experienced “burnout”
According to the results on the baseline assessment, the average weekly working hours for respondents are 48.4 hours, approximately 7 hours more than the 41 hours that is stipulated in their contracts. The working hours of one-third of the respondents (33%) are even 20% more than the number of hours stipulated in their contracts and only less than one-fourth of the respondents (24%) are entitled to flexible working hours. Regarding physical health in the past 12 weeks, about 20% of the respondents (18%) sought medical attention for illness and less than 10% of the respondents (5%) have taken sick leaves for 2 days or more. In self-assessment of overall wellbeing, only around 30% (29%) rated themselves 75 scores or above on a 100-score scale. As to mental health condition, about one-fourth of the respondents (27%) feels anxious and depressed, some experienced moderate to extreme level of stress (24%). Over 60% of the respondents suffered from burnout symptoms. The situation warrants particular attention.
Workplace environment scan helps identifying solutions
The Programme has initially recruited 400 participants, who were allocated randomly into two groups, namely intervention and control groups. The Programme is launched in two domains, one is organisation-directed and the other one is individual-directed. On the organisation-directed side, the research team conducts workplace environment scanning for participating organisations, using the Moos’s Work Environment Scale (WES), to assess five dimensions such as involvement, coworker cohesion, supervisor’s support, work pressure and control. Analysis on findings will be provided to the management of participating organisations with professional interpretation and possible strategies for resolving issues by a senior social worker with expertise in workplace issues, hoping to improve mental wellbeing of employees, thus enhancing their overall work performance.
Training courses to promote mental health awareness
On the individual-directed side, training courses on mental health education will be conducted by professional social workers from the MHAHK for employees at participating organisations. Training will be held both online and offline with contents deriving from the evidence-based “Mental Health First Aid” from Australia, which covers a module on stress reduction and burnout prevention. For those learning online, they will be taught with the importance of promoting workplace mental wellbeing, knowledge on causes of depression and anxiety, as well as first-aid procedures, while real-life application of Mental Health First Aid will be taught in face-to-face settings to facilitate case discussion and practice. Workers’ mental health condition will be re-assessed after training, for evaluation of programme effectiveness on improving mental wellbeing and burnout symptoms of employees.
Professor Lawrence Lam, Vice President (Academic) of TWC and the principal investigator of the Programme, said, “baseline assessment is the integral part of the Programme, from which we observed that more than half of the respondents are experiencing burnout symptoms, the situation warrants attention. In order to promote mental health at the workplace, the Mental Health Workplace Charter was launched by the Government in 2019 to foster friendly workplace environment. In terms of the promotion of mental wellbeing at workplace, Hong Kong, as a late starter, falls behind other countries. People with mental health issues are facing constantly widespread stigma and discrimination. The knowledge about mental health issues in our community is insufficient, making it difficult for us to aware of our mental wellbeing, which in turn hinders early identification of mental distress and timely medical attention. Therefore, by launching this Programme, we hope to enhance mental health awareness among employees and urge employers to pay attention to workplace mental wellbeing.”
Mr. Stephen Wong, Assistant Director of the MHAHK, said, “the creation of a mental health-friendly workplace is helpful in promoting engagement, morale and productivity of workforce. We advocate the establishment of Policy on Mental Healthy Workplace to cover friendly policies on mental wellbeing, family role and flexible working hours, as well as the launching of EAP Programme for offering of free counselling services and mental health workshop. In addition, participating organisations are encouraged to arrange courses on mental health first aid to foster caring culture at workplace and disseminate information about help-seeking channels in the community, so that employees can seek help when necessary. On the other hand, we suggest them to get to know more about mental health, pay more attention to the mental health conditions of themselves and the people around, extending the sense of caring at workplace.”
Ms. Renate Lam, Senior Human Resources Manager of Hang Yick Properties Management Limited said, “it is our corporate responsibility to care about the mental wellbeing of our staff. As always, we care very much about their physical and psychological health and would like to extend our gratitude to TWC and the MHAHK for inviting us to join this Programme. It is helpful for us to understand more about the mental health status of our staff, so that we can create a mental health-friendly workplace to offer timely and appropriate support when necessary.”