The twin topics of stress and mental health were the focus of Malaysia’s Healthiest Workplace Summit 2019 hosted by AIA Bhd last month, as the company took an active step to look beyond physical and nutritional health this year to the importance of mental well-being.

Attended by close to 600 people, the event highlighted that mental health is an aspect of employees’ health that is often ignored, but which should no longer be the case if employers truly seek a happier, more productive workforce.

AIA, which recently launched its AIA Vitality Sleep Benefit and a Mental Health Benefit under its A-Plus Health Medical Plan, wants to encourage Malaysians to talk about their own mental health and to break the stigma around this conversation, says AIA CEO Ben Ng. “We see these efforts as small steps forward in helping Malaysians achieve a healthier and better quality of life. And I am extremely proud to share that they were born out of the motivation to meet the various health risks and needs that were highlighted in the Healthiest Workplace survey over the years,” says Ng, referring to the company’s annual survey to gauge workers’ health.

Several dialogue sessions were held during the event, including a panel discussion on “Enabling Health at Work”, which stressed that the pursuit of the most effective measure to help employees improve their well-being is by engaging them to find out what suits them best. The findings of the Malaysia’s Healthiest Workplace by AIA Vitality 2019 Survey — in its third year now — were also shared. Among them were that 9 out of 10 people in the Malaysian workforce are not eating healthily, half of them are stressed out and not getting enough sleep, while 8 out of 10 suffer from some form of musculoskeletal condition.

Clearly, the current fast-paced lifestyle has driven employees to the point of physical exhaustion with elevated stress levels, as the constant use of technology has resulted in a non-stop working culture, Ng says. But what is encouraging is that a record 230 Malaysian organisations of different sizes, representing a combined workforce of 17,595 people, took part in the survey. This indicates that more Malaysian companies are prioritising employees’ health, says Ng.

“The survey serves as a platform for organisations to take charge in creating a healthier environment for their people …  Ultimately, employees are the biggest asset to any organisation and play an important role in contributing to the bottom line. We all need to play our part because we are only successful in our pursuit of building a healthier Malaysia when we do it together,” said Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye, who officiated the Malaysia’s Healthiest Workplace Summit 2019.

AIA honoured 15 companies who participated in the survey at an awards ceremony held in conjunction with the summit for doing their best to help improve employees’ health this year. There were four main award categories: Malaysia’s Healthiest Employees, Malaysia’s Healthiest Employer, Malaysia’s Healthiest Workplace and Malaysia’s Most Improved Workplace. Three winners were selected in each category according to size — small, medium and large, based on staff strength — with three “highly commended” awards also given out under each category.

Check out the full winners’ list (see table) and what seven of the award recipients have to share:

Mindvalley — Malaysia’s Healthiest Employees winner  (Small organisation)

We recently started a 30-day paternity leave to give working fathers the time and space to do their best for their family. We also offer flexi-time and remote work. We encourage employees to set their working hours to reduce stress and prevent workplace burnout. This way, employees may squeeze in some gym time between meetings or attend to other important matters, while those working from home get to be closer to their families. We make check-ins with employees a regular practice, so the topics of performance and well-being are less stressful when discussed as part of everyday conversation.

This year, Inc. Magazine named us as having one of “The World’s Coolest Offices” . The newly designed space was recognised for its focus on natural light, which has a significant impact on energy, alertness and productivity. Our office also has more than 800 plants, which have helped improve air quality and reduce noise levels, stress and sickness, while improving creativity.

Apart from giving employees access to our courses and products — we are a personal growth education company — we provide in-house coaching and therapy to employees so they have a safe space to work through personal trauma, rediscover their strengths and overcome stress and anxiety. We also host programmes like fitness classes and outdoor activities to promote connection and a sense of community. — Nik Mahirah Nik Mohammad, people operations manager

Agilent Technologies LDA Malaysia Sdn Bhd — Malaysia’s Healthiest Employees winner (Medium organisation)

Employees are our biggest assets and people do thrive in better workplaces. As employers, we must care for our employees’ well-being and maintain a healthy workplace through positive work/life practices. Healthy employees are key to a happy and productive workforce.  We have many programmes to help employees stay healthy and one of them is providing free executive health screening.  The annual screening not only increases awareness of their own health status but gives them knowledge and possible actions they can take to achieve and maintain healthy lifestyle goals.  Talking also helps.  So apart from creating awareness around health issues via our Health Week, we have health talks to keep people talking about such issues.

To inspire employees to get fit and stay active, we organise activities like lunchtime Fit Fighter, Abs Classes, weekly runs, and basketball and futsal games. We are also supportive of their participation in external fitness events like the Perkeso Activ@Work Challenge 2019 and charity runs. Employees stay motivated longer when they participate in activities as a team.

We take work-life balance seriously, so we make a lot of effort to ensure our employees can achieve that. Still, stress will arise during busy periods or when critical project deadlines loom. Good support to help them manage stress is important. That is why we have many channels for them to express their concerns and give feedback. We also hold stress management courses yearly and organise mental health talks. — Chai Meng Fee, Malaysia Country general manager

Technip Geoproduction (M) Sdn Bhd — Malaysia’s Healthiest Employees winner (Large organisation)

We tried hard for several years, through various programmes, but we never found something different that would engage and excite our people. So, we reached out to external providers to build a wellness programme that our people would see as theirs. We asked our employees: ‘What do you want?, ‘What can we do for you?’and ‘How we can help?’ Subsequently, we enrolled in the AIA Vitality programme last year, which has allowed our employees to be more physically active and mindful about their health.

This recognition means we are on the right track. We need to ensure the momentum continues, with employees actively taking charge of their own health.

All we are trying to do is show our people that we care, by giving them the means to monitor their health and, when necessary, get support and help to improve it. Because health and well-being are personal, all we can do is provide the tools, the education and the support for our people to reach their full potential.

The same is true for our employees mental health, which is also important. So we offer 24/7 support to those who need it through the Employee Assistance Programme, supported by a credible service provider. To be proactive rather than reactive,         we have made various workshops, training and coaching sessions available to our people to educate them on health and well-being. It is critical to recognise the signals and  triggers and understand what we can do to support and help each other. — John Christian, director HSE Subsea Asia/ME & On-Off Asia Pacific.

Yayasan Pahang — Malaysia’s Healthiest Employer, Malaysia’s Healthiest Workplace & Malaysia’s Most Improved Workplace winner (Small organisation)

We are very proud this year that 60% of our employees managed to reduce their weight by between 0.5kg and 30kg. At the same time, medical claims have fallen by 30% while insurance claims dropped by 40%. More employees have voluntarily participated in physical activities and those who are overweight have started to follow a healthy eating plan.

These achievements were possible because we encourage employees to take responsibility for their health through seminars, dialogue and exercise sessions. The awards show we are making significant progress in helping them improve their well-being.

We also give employees five-minute breaks during working hours — at 10am, 12pm and 3pm daily — to do simple exercises at their work stations. Our office is also equipped with a gym and a 1.5km jogging track around the building for those who want to work out more.

Mental health is also an area we take seriously. We offer the DASS (Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scales) test to employees. One-to-one counselling sessions are also provided with registered counsellors for those who need them.

To help employees de-stress, we created a herb garden in the office compound that allows them to do some gardening after working hours. We are always striving to do better to help employees improve their wellness. — Datuk Mahmud Mohd Nawawi, CEO

International Medical University (IMU) — Malaysia’s Healthiest Employer & Malaysia’s Healthiest Workplace winner (Medium organisation)

This is the second time IMU has won an award at this AIA event. The first time was in 2017, when we won two awards: Malaysia’s Healthiest Workplace and Malaysia’s Healthiest Employees (for medium organisations).

Looking at the results of the survey this year, it shows that we cannot rest on our laurels. Employee wellness is a journey. We can never say we have reached our goal because we want to be better and healthier each day. I am confident this award will further encourage management and employees to transform IMU into a healthy employer with healthy employees in a healthy workplace.

Workplace well-being is crucial for all companies. And a healthy workplace is not only one that focuses on physical fitness, the mental wellness of employees must also be emphasised. To address this, we have to create a culture of fairness in the organisation, where everyone — irrespective of rank, seniority, gender, race or religion — is respected. Employees need to feel good about themselves and feel psychologically safe in the workplace in order to perform well. — Francis Wen, chief human resources officer.

Dell TECHNOLOGIES mALAYSIA — Malaysia’s Healthiest Employer & Malaysia’s Healthiest Workplace winner (Large organisation)

This is the third year Dell participated in this survey and being recognised with an award each year has been truly rewarding and a testament to our commitment to cultivate the best environment, culture and purpose for our team.

The survey results have given us good data and insights, year on year, on how our internal wellness programmes are helping our team to not only have better awareness of their overall well-being — physically, mentally and emotionally — but to act on it to become healthier.

These  ‘checkpoints’ allow us to review our progress and make improvements. The feedback we have received has also been overwhelmingly positive — team members are happy, productive and have a good work-life balance.

The focus of our wellness initiative this year is stress relief and mental health awareness. We have workshops to inform our team about the often hidden indicators and let them know that help is always available. In addition, we have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) that is available 24/7. Anyone who feels, knows or lives with someone who feels stress, depression or anxiety — be it on a personal level or at work — can speak  to an independent volunteer via a hotline or in person.

We are also a strong advocate of flexible working arrangements. We have seen team members be at their best and become more productive as a result of flexible working hours. — Pang Yee Beng, senior vice-president, South Asia, and managing director, Malaysia.

KPJ Pasir Gudang Specialist Hospital — Malaysia’s Most Improved Workplace winner (Medium organisation)

We have a Wellness Wednesday programme to create awareness among our employees about healthy activities. Among the initiatives under the programme are helping employees to stop smoking and lose weight. Staff who achieve the ideal body mass index get free membership at an appointed gym as a reward.

We believe one of the most positive ways to reduce stress is by exercising, and that every able-bodied adult should get at least 30 minutes of it per day. We try to encourage this by organising a biking session every Friday morning, 7am to 8am, to cycle 15km to 20km. Our people are also encouraged to get involved in sports events organised by the KPJ Pasir Gudang Sports and Recreation Club, such as badminton, futsal and dodge ball. Sport is also a great way to increase energy and help our people be more active and productive.

Next year, we will have a child care centre so employees no longer have to worry about caring for their children during workdays, and to reduce the number of missed work days. When employees have a greater sense of control and ownership over their lives, they tend to have better relationships with management and are able to focus on work issues at work and leave home issues at home. — Hazarul Azly Hamzah, CEO