High work demands have emerged as the top driver of stress across workplaces in Asia, with nine in 10 surveyed indicating that their jobs required high mental focus and multi-tasking.
At the same time, six in 10 of these respondents reported a lack of control over the pace and order of work that they need to complete; while on the other hand, just 41% reported being able to take breaks when necessary.
These are among initial findings of Mercer's Healthy Minds at Work Assessment released today, which was conducted between July and September. The survey aims to provide businesses with insights into their progress against four key workplace dimensions of mental health risks - leadership and management support; culture and social interactions; work demands and career development; and wellbeing.
The Asia-wide survey, which involved 2,500 employees across Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan, Hong Kong and Mainland China, also found that strenuous work demands have resulted in poor work-life balance.
For example, 83% of employees said they now work overtime more than three times a week, while over 70% reported working on rest days or beyond regular work hours. These observations were seen to be greater among those in more senior positions.
Share of employees who feel stressed has tripled since the onset of the pandemic
Apart from the above, respondents were asked to rate their pressure level from one to five, with five being the highest, relating to how they feel about their job before and after the pandemic/ Through this, it was found that more employees in the region are now reporting high stress levels since the onset of the pandemic, versus before it started.
In particular, the percentage of this group is now thrice the number who revealed high levels of pressure pre-pandemic (7%). More interestingly, a large jump in these numbers was observed among respondents in senior management (from 9% to 33%) and sales roles (from 9% to 37%); while respondents who were divorced saw similar hikes in stress levels in the same period (from 7% to 39%).
Areas employers are doing well in: Support, communication, inclusiveness
Despite the rise in stress levels, employees across the board noted that they do feel well-supported by their managers and teams. In fact, six in 10 have said they always receive clear communication (67%) as well as support from their managers.
This support, they added, includes assistance in solving problems (66%), or pointing them to others who can help (61%).
Additionally, these employees also said they appreciated being heard, with 61% sharing that their individual opinions and views are always being taken into account.
Through these times, employers aren't forgetting one thing - the importance of an inclusive working environment and culture, according to the employees surveyed.
In specific, more than seven in 10 (74%) employees shared that they are always able to trust their co-workers, while 78% indicated that their workplace culture helps facilitate collaboration.
At the same time, a similar percentage (77%) believe their workplace is a safe place to be, with 76% sharing that manipulation at work is rare.
Lastly, 73% added that their workplace successes are always attributed to them
Areas employers could do better in: Workload, work demands, encouraging work-life balance
Keeping the above in mind, there are still certain aspects which employers could improve on.
For instance, an average of 42% of respondents said it has been challenging to manage their team, particularly when they have to pre-empt escalated work issues or get the team to perform.
Similarly, 61% of employees reported receiving constant criticisms at work, an aspect that was more distinct among first-line employees who deal directly with external and external stakeholders.
Commenting on these findings, Renee McGowan, Mercer's CEO for Asia, said: "The numbers paint a worrying picture of the impact of work demands and the pandemic on the mental health of employees in Asia, but it also presents opportunities for employers to step up on their measures of support, starting with listening to employees through surveys like these and responding to their concerns with flexibility and empathy."
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