Career Advice Career Guidance and Counselling

Stress is an invisible problem that weighs on employers and employees alike

Employee stress is invisible and often dismissed as a cost of urban living, but employers across Asia-Pacific say it’s the leading workforce risk and it’s is certainly a problem in Hong Kong. 

For employers, it directly affects the bottom line because it increases absenteeism and reduces productivity, while for employees it can lead to chronic disease. Given that in Hong Kong, 69 per cent of employers see benefits – mainly health-related – as a way to attract and retain staff, it’s important.

The path to improving health and subsequently productivity is a long one, but the first step is to provide thoughtful health and wellness programmes that genuinely connect with employees. Employers need to take a holistic approach to their employees’ health, while individuals should seek more choice and understand the benefits offered. 

Total health management is the key phrase because sickness isn’t always the outcome of a physical issue. Stress has been noted to worsen or increase the risk of conditions such as obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems and asthma.

Stress is often a harbinger of other health issues, so employee assistance programmes (EAPs) – confidential and short-term counselling services – are a popular tactic. In Hong Kong, 48 per cent of employers offer EAPs – well above the regional average of 30 per cent – and 20 per cent offer stress management.

Counselling may address various issues, such as domestic problems, depression or workplace bullying. After an assessment, EAP counsellors may refer employees to mental-health professionals.

Employers should also consider measures like eliminating stressors or developing mental resilience, for a holistic approach to stress management. 

This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Stressing health.