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HK employers good sports in backing fitness

Published on Friday, 02 May 2014
Peter Yu
Morris Cheung

Most employees in Hong Kong say their employers actively support a healthy lifestyle and staying mentally fit, according to a recent survey. They also profess to perform better when they work out or play sports regularly.

The Randstad Workmonitor Q1 2014 survey found 70 per cent of employees said their employers supported a healthy lifestyle, and 56 per cent said their employers supported mental fitness – such as by providing a job coach or mentoring. Thirty-five per cent said they can work out or play sport during work hours.

Randstad Hong Kong director Peter Yu says the findings show employers are acknowledging the importance of mental and physical health and how this correlates with performance at work. “We are seeing more companies proactively adopting measures to help their employees achieve this balance, which in turn improves workforce productivity,” he says.

The findings are on par with major countries in the region. In Singapore, 49 per cent of questioned employees said their employers actively support their mental fitness and 36 per cent said they were permitted to work out or engage in sports during work hours.

The survey, which was conducted in 33 countries, showed Hong Kong employers rated better than some of their counterparts in Europe. In Britain, only 35 per cent of employees said their employers supported mental health and only 25 per cent allowed them to engage in sports during office hours. In France, the results were even lower, at 29 per cent and 24 per cent respectively.

“With Asia’s continuous economic development, many organisations here are at war for talent to fill the skills gaps needed to drive business growth,” Yu says. “Therefore, organisations are proactively building a strong employer brand to cater to the needs of employees to attract and retain the top talent.”

Hong Kong employees could indeed benefit from pro-health initiatives in their workplaces. The study found that 30 per cent of employees here said they don’t have enough energy to work every day, compared to only 18 per cent in Britain and 20 per cent in Singapore. Hong Kongers are, at least, spry compared to their peers in Japan, where six out of 10 employees said they don’t have enough energy coming to work.

Yu cites a number of reasons why local employees are lethargic. “These can range from family responsibilities to lifestyle factors like diet and exercise. Not to mention, Hong Kong is such a vibrant and energetic city – it’s as vigorous in the night as it is in the day.” he says.

While respondents appreciated fruit and a juice maker in the pantry, and free or subsidised gym memberships, 80 per cent still considered physical fitness their own responsibility. “Keeping fit will always largely be a personal responsibility. However, companies can encourage their employees to achieve this goal, especially when staff are working longer hours and have less free time to maintain a fitness regime,” Yu says. “Common measures such as allowing time to exercise during lunch hours, providing exercise facilities at work or offering corporate rates for wellness programmes, go a long way towards optimising the health of a company’s workforce. Ultimately, it is still up to the employee to take advantage of these benefits.”

One company that has been found to provide a wide range of staff-wellness initiatives is the MTR Corporation. For instance, shop floor staff are required to participate in warm-up exercises at the start of every work day, and a campaign on maintaining an ideal body mass index has been launched. Seminars on positive psychology, parenting, Chinese medicine and other topics, as well as classes on yoga, Tai Chi, Thai boxing and other activities, are organised regularly to foster workers’ well-being.

“Our employees are given opportunities to understand the importance of mental and physical health and enhance their well-being through developing healthy habits in eating, exercising and personal hygiene,” says MTRC HR director Morris Cheung.

MTRC also provides sports and recreational facilities and runs a health and hygiene programme that publishes health articles, sends out tips on the company intranet, and arranges various talks on health, hygiene and work-life balance.

Cheung says productivity can be enhanced by strengthening workers’ physical and mental health. “We have received positive feedback [that] the programmes have contributed towards a general sense of wellness among our colleagues and raised their awareness in taking good care of their bodies and minds,” he says.

“Through taking care of [employees’] wellness, and supporting them in their development, we create a positive work environment and have the privilege of having a relatively stable workforce. This greatly helps as we continue to strive for further service improvements and prepare ourselves for the start of operations on our new railway lines.”

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