Employee burnout in Asia: Why companies should care about employee health and well-being.

According to a recent report by insurance brokerage firm Aon and TELUS Health, 35% of employees in Asia are at high risk of mental health issues, while 47% are at moderate risk. Compared to other regions globally, Asia is significantly more prone to risks such as low productivity, anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, 45% of Asian employees report that their mental health negatively impacts their work efficiency.

In the fast-paced and fiercely competitive global business environment, both companies and employees face unprecedented pressures. Especially post-pandemic, employees are dealing with health anxieties along with increased workloads and job uncertainties. These stressors are particularly evident in Asia, where burnout rates exceed the global average.

The Significant Impact of Neglecting Employee Wellbeing

Employees are the core members and valuable assets of any organization. They are the creators and sharers of corporate culture, values, and benefits, making their efficiency and vitality crucial for company development.

“Supporting employees’ wellbeing is necessary for organizations to maintain high levels of engagement and productivity to deliver measurable return on investment.” noted Tim Dwyer, CEO of Aon’s Health Solutions for the Asia Pacific.

“Organizations that do not implement support structures or choose to dismiss the impact of mental health in their workplace will realize there is a significant cost in doing nothing,”

increasing evidence links poor workplace mental health to organizational issues such as turnover, absenteeism, decreased engagement, reduced productivity, and increased insurance costs.

The report found that 45% of Asian employees believe their mental health affects their work efficiency, with countries like Malaysia, India, and the Philippines experiencing higher-than-average employee losses. This should concern employers as it can lead to costs related to sick leave, long-term disability, absenteeism, and employee turnover. A recent study in Singapore found that individuals with anxiety and depression had lower work efficiency, with an average of 17.7 more missed work days annually. It’s estimated that productivity loss due to anxiety and depression costs Singapore nearly $12 billion annually. In Australia, the estimated annual cost of absenteeism related to mental health is about $13.6 billion. In Japan, mental health claims reached a record high in 2021.

How Employers Can Create a Positive Work Environment and Enhance Employee Loyalty

A recent study by McKinsey explored workplace mental health issues and suggested three actions employers can take to create a healthier work environment, reduce employee turnover, and foster better engagement:

Effectively Improve Poor Workplace Environment

The key to avoiding a negative work atmosphere in cross-national employee management is establishing and maintaining a positive and healthy work culture. This includes setting clear behavioural standards and values, explicitly outlining unacceptable behaviors such as bullying, discrimination, and harassment. Emphasizing company values and encouraging mutual respect and support among employees is also crucial. Providing training and awareness programs to help employees understand what constitutes “toxic behaviour” and how to prevent and address it is essential. Regular events that emphasize teamwork and mutual respect are also beneficial. Additionally, creating diverse and inclusive teams encourages innovation and understanding, reducing the occurrence of “toxic behaviours.”

Providing Necessary Support and Resources

It’s unreasonable to treat all employee needs uniformly, as the needs of parents with children and single employees differ significantly. Employers should prioritise providing basic support, such as Employee Assistance Programs and workplace behaviour policies. Beyond this, employers need to offer personalised support and interventions for specific groups, understanding their unique needs through empathy. For local employers, listening involves understanding the different commitments and needs of employees, considering cultural and national factors. This approach promotes workplace inclusivity, helping employees cope with stress and challenges.

Enhancing Attention and Organisational Listening Capabilities:

To enhance employee wellbeing, HR departments can take the following measures to strengthen data and monitoring, as well as feedback mechanisms:

1. Implement employee surveys and questionnaires regularly to understand employee wellbeing, needs, and opinions. Analyzing the results helps HR identify potential problem areas and develop improvement plans.

2. Establish open feedback mechanisms, allowing employees to express their opinions, suggestions, and concerns through one-on-one meetings, anonymous feedback channels, or suggestion boxes.

3. Collect and analyze employee data, such as turnover rates, employee satisfaction, and performance evaluations, to understand overall employee wellbeing and identify trends and potential issues.

4. Set clear wellbeing indicators and goals, such as reducing work stress and improving job satisfaction, and regularly monitor and evaluate progress.

Employers should address employee mental health and burnout issues proactively. In the modern work environment, employees face increasing pressure and challenges, leading to anxiety, depression, and burnout. Recognizing that employee mental health is crucial for their quality of life and work performance, employers must commit to providing support and resources to help employees manage stress, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and improve their mental health. Promoting mental health awareness and education, offering mental health training and resources, and establishing open feedback mechanisms allow employees to safely share their concerns and needs. These measures create a supportive work environment, achieving the goal of mutual development for employees and the company.

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