The City Mental Health Alliance Hong Kong's Mental health and wellbeing in the workplace survey, involving 1500 respondents, revealed that 27% of employees in Hong Kong have experienced mental health problems in the past year.
While it comes as no surprise that COVID-19 is the most significant contributing factor to their sub-optimal state of mental health, a further breakdown of the findings revealed the top three related concerns were ‘fear of contracting the disease’ (42%), ‘lack of social activity’ (35%) and ‘job security’ (25%).
Many employees have experienced some common symptoms associated with poor mental health including physical tiredness (45%), feeling mentally drained (42%) and sleeping issues (36%).
In particular, middle-managers have taken the hardest hit. They also have the highest incidence of presenteeism across all ranks and consistently rates the support available in their company as the least helpful.
Notably, the survey uncovered three issues that would help to tackle poor mental health in the workplace: Stigma, presenteeism (turning up for work despite experiencing mental ill health) and a middle-management ‘crunch’.
Stigma has been shown to be a major inhibitor to people talking about mental health issues in the workplace. A total of 32% of respondents in Hong Kong had either personally experienced stigma due to mental health issues or knew of someone who had. However, this is down from 55%, based on 2018 data.
Additionally, 83% of the Hong Kong employees who stated that they had experienced mental health problems while being employed admitted to presenteeism by going to work despite poor mental health in the last 12 months. The reasons for employees ignoring their mental health symptoms most commonly cited were a ‘sense of duty and work ethic’, ‘too much work’ and ‘fear of a negative review’.
That said, on a positive note, the survey found that the attitude of employees towards mental health is changing with predominantly negatively associated mental health terms (2018: ‘stress’, ‘depression’, ‘crazy’) being replaced with positive terms (2020: ‘happiness’, ‘rest’), suggesting a mindset change had occurred since 2018.
The number of people who didn’t tell anyone about personal mental health issues is also down by 19% from 60% (2018 data) to 41% showing an increase in openness to discussion.