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A just-published study by Helix Resilience revealed that 30% of employees have hidden mental health issue from their bosses – instead claiming that they are physically unwell when they phoned in sick.

The survey of 2000 white-collar workers found that those aged between 18 and 24-years-old were the most likely to cover up a mental health issue, with 37% admitting they had done so.

While the UK-based study drew on respondents from London, it’s likely the figure of staff hiding mental illness in Hong Kong is even higher, given how mental health remains a taboo topic in many Asian workplaces.

Interestingly, only 26% of those aged 33 to 44-years-old and 13% of those aged 55 or above said that they had hidden a mental health issue from their employer.

The report also found that the ongoing pandemic has had a negative impact of those surveyed, with 83% admitting it had adversely affected their mental health – especially those subject to lockdown.

Checking in is important – especially with much of Hong Kong’s workforce still working from home.

“HR departments who have the luxury to be in touch with all employees would have their finger on the pulse. But, as this is highly unlikely in larger organisations, it may be the case that tracking devices for health – physical and mood – can be a help to increase awareness in the individual, the team and the wider organisation,” Dr Scarlett Mattoli told Human Resources in an earlier interview.

Also read: How HR can protect employees’ health during times of crisis

Commenting on the impact of Covid-19, HR Director for British bank TSB, Liz Ashford, told HR Grapevine that “employers cannot underestimate the mixing bowl of emotions colleagues are experiencing – from the impact of isolation or feelings of grief to anxiety and sadness or unfortunately, all of these”.

Ashford explained that HR professionals wanting to improve their wellbeing practices should demonstrate their concern for their team.

“Even a small gesture can help them, a simple ‘well done’, or ‘thank you’ can make a huge difference to their day or even week,” she added.

Ashford added that the bank has an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) where her team can speak to trained professionals if and when they needed to.

Want to know more about protecting your own mental wellbeing and that of your team? Check out the upcoming Managing Mental Health in the Workplace, an expert-led interactive series for HR.

Parts of this article first appeared on the HR Grapevine website.