Economic volatility has increased pressure on Hong Kong workers, with 57% reporting that they are seeing more stress-related illness since the downturn, according to the latest research from Regus, the global workplace provider. But the findings also indicate that businesses can help to reverse this trend: Hong Kong workers identified flexible working as a critical way to help ease work-related stress (72%).
Stress-related illness can worsen or cause a whole series of health conditions ranging from obesity to heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems and asthma. Building on Regus research last year, which found that 48% of respondents globally felt their stress levels had risen in the past year, this latest study found that almost one third (32%) of Hong Kong workers actually lose sleep due to worries about work.
The survey, canvassing the opinions of more than 20,000 senior executives and business owners across 95 countries, also found that in Hong Kong, stress is causing a worrying increase in absenteeism (51%), damaging business productivity as well as worker well-being.
The survey also reveals 35% of respondents are worried about losing their job, while 38% feel less confident about the sector they work in. Another finding is that 35% of respondents report that their family and friends have noticed they are stressed by work. Meanwhile, 42% say that stress is damaging their co-worker’s personal relationships.
"The global downturn and subsequent period of unprecedented growth in emerging economies have had a destabilising effect, putting a strain on businesses and their employees," says John Henderson, Chief Finance Officer, Regus. "Workers are expected to do more with less, and this has taken a toll on them in terms of workplace stress levels. Unsurprisingly, this has a knock-on effect on employees' lives outside work, and possibly on their longer-term health too. Clearly, none of this is in the interests of employers. Businesses that are proactive in addressing this issue are likely to end up with a healthier, more productive workforce and reduced absenteeism."
"Many companies in Hong Kong have difficulty in adapting to the new way of working that a culture of flexibility requires," says Robin Bishop, Director, Corporate Responsibility for Community Business, an NGO that champions employee-friendly workplaces. "It tends to be viewed as a policy that benefits the employee, rather than the employer. But employees who are given the autonomy to work in a way that allows them a degree of control over when, how, and where they do their work are better able to achieve a balance between work and life. In return, these employees are generally happier, more motivated and committed. This translates into a workforce that is not only more loyal and likely to stay at the organisation for longer, but also one that is better equipped to do their job and add value. Flexible working makes business sense."