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Designing a corporate wellness program in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is renowned for its frenetic work culture and fast-paced lifestyle, earning a spot as one of the world’s most dynamic cities. But this comes at a cost to the mental health of employees in the SAR, as one third of them suffer from mental health issues.

In this Pacific Prime Hong Kong article, we explore why employees are struggling and present corporate wellness programs as a solution, as well as give employers a step-by-step approach to designing the programs.

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Why employees are struggling in Hong Kong

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), employees should work no more than 48 hours a week. With that said, the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions’ analysis revealed that one fifth of Hong Kong employees are on the job an average of 55 hours a week.

While working longer hours may increase productivity, the productivity per hour declines sharply when working more than 50 hours a week, as per a Stanford University study. What’s more, the productivity drops after 55 hours to the extent that it makes working any more hours pointless.

In this context, we can make sense of AIA’s 2019 study in Hong Kong, which found through a survey that:

  • The loss of productivity in Hong Kong due to health-related absenteeism and presenteeism accounts for almost 30% of an employee’s working hours on average. Annually, this causes 77 days of productivity to be lost, costing organizations HKD $44.88 million.
  • Employees are also unable to practice a healthy lifestyle: around 80% claimed they don’t have a balanced diet, around 60% said they have less than 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week, and around 50% get less than 7 hours of sleep a night.

Work-related stress and hectic lifestyle are clearly taking a toll on employees:

  • On the mental health front, around 60% of employees faced stress at work, with more than 10% having moderate or severe depression. Likewise, when it comes to physical health, 85% of employees suffered from musculoskeletal disorders. In addition, over 20% had conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.

With the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in heightened stress, anxiety, and uncertainty, the physical and mental impact on employees is only going to rise, prompting employers to intervene through coronavirus and employee wellness programs. So, how can you get started as an employer?

4 steps for designing a corporate wellness program in Hong Kong

First things first, designing and maintaining a corporate wellness program is vital in enhancing the health and productivity of employees, as well as engaging them during the pandemic. Not only will this benefit employees, there are also plenty of benefits for you.

By focusing on wellness initiatives, you may be able to lower overall health costs, as well as decrease workers’ compensation and disability-related costs. Prioritizing employee wellbeing also improves employee morale, enhancing productivity and efficiency at the workplace.

If you have a robust corporate wellness program in Hong Kong, during a period of great uncertainty, you’ll also gain a reputation as being the employer of choice, enabling you to attract and retain the best talent in the SAR.

Based on our ‘Structuring an employee benefit plan’ guide, which focuses specifically on group health insurance, here is a step-by-step approach for corporate wellness programs from our in-house consultants, which should help you get the ball rolling.

Step 1: Identify corporate wellness program objectives

To start off with, you’ll have to understand why you’re designing and implementing corporate wellness programs as an employee benefit. This can be broad goals like reducing absenteeism and presenteeism, as well as increasing staff retention.

You will also need to understand and evaluate the current health needs of your staff by doing a survey, a health risk assessment, and reviewing the utilization rates of your group health insurance plan.

Once you understand this, you can come up with concrete goals and objectives. For instance, to lower the number of employees who smoke or to decrease the number of employees identified as obese by 10% next year.

Step 2: Calculate your budget

With clear and attainable objectives in place, you’ll need to calculate your budget for the corporate wellness program. You should also remember to include in your budget the cost of designing and marketing the program, as well as incentivizing employees to participate.

To potentially save on costs, you can survey your employees to see if they would be willing to share the costs with you on some aspects of the program, like meditation sessions or exercise classes. You could also consider free community/government resources.

After you’ve generated a rough budget estimate, you’ll need to obtain approval from the senior management of your company. Demonstrate how the wellness programs support the organization’s strategic priorities when making your case.

Step 3: Assess your options and shortlist programs

Receiving the green light from management means you can move on to assess your options. This is a good opportunity to establish a wellness committee with cross-sectional representation from various teams, including HR, legal, communication, etc.

The wellness committee can then begin to shortlist programs from a range of options including, but not limited to:

  • Stress reduction programs
  • Health screenings
  • Exercise classes
  • Nutrition education
  • Mindfulness sessions
  • And more

In this step, you’ll also need to look at your options for third-party vendors that can offer these programs. You should aim to conduct a meaningful comparison to find the best-value program for your organization.

Step 4: Build, implement, and evaluate the program

After you’ve got all the elements of the program, it’s time to roll it out at your organization. Decide if you’ll start with a pilot program or go ahead with a full launch. Whatever you opt for, you’ll need to plan communication strategies to inform and incentivize employees to take part.

Even though you may have successfully implemented the program, you should make sure to measure the effectiveness of the wellness program using established metrics and baselines. This includes participation rates, program completion rates, reduction in healthcare costs, etc.

Further to this, you may also want to measure the return on investment (ROI). With this, you’ll know whether the program is cost-effective or not, enabling you to continually tweak your offerings to meet your business objectives.

Looking for employee benefit solutions? Get in touch with Pacific Prime Hong Kong

If you are looking to design corporate wellness programs, Pacific Prime Hong Kong is the answer. As a global health insurance broker and employee benefits specialist, we have over two decades of experience helping corporates understand and navigate the changing landscape in Hong Kong, most recently through our State of Health Insurance Report 2020.

Whether it’s group health insurance plans or employee benefits solutions, such as corporate wellness programs, we use our unique broker approach to offer you tailored packages that meet your needs and budgets. For more information on what we can do for you, you can get in touch with our corporate team today!

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Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime Hong Kong
Suphanida is a Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime, an award-winning global health insurance and employee benefits specialist.

With over 5 years of experience in the field, Suphanida spends the majority of her day synthesizing complex pieces of insurance-related information and translating this into easy-to-understand, engaging, and effective content across a variety of media such as articles, infographics, whitepapers, videos, and more.

Suphanida is also responsible for planning and publishing three whitepapers released annually by Pacific Prime: The State of Health Insurance Report, The Cost of Health Insurance Report, and The Global Employee Benefits Trends Report. Additionally, she handles the LinkedIn profiles of Pacific Prime’s Founder and CEO, as well as Global HR Lead.

Suphanida’s strengths lie in her strong research and analytical skills, which she has gained from her BA in Politics from the University of Warwick and Erasmus Mundus Joint MA in Journalism from Aarhus University and City, University of London.

Being of Thai-Indian origin and having lived, studied, and worked in Thailand, the UK, and Denmark, Suphanida also has a unique, multicultural perspective that helps her understand the struggles of expats and globetrotters.

Outside of work, she enjoys traveling to new places and immersing herself in different cultures.
Suphanida Thakral