Corporate Banking

Rich in health

by Ada Ng

Merianna Lok, regional head of human resources
HSBC Insurance (Asia-Pacific)
Photos: Edde Ngan

Leading financier places a health premium on staff well-being

Hong Kong's working population is notoriously hardworking and subject to high levels of stress arising from the increasingly competitive business environment.

In view of this, employees' health and happiness form a key part of HSBC Insurance's human resources strategy, says Merianna Lok, regional head of human resources, HSBC Insurance (Asia-Pacific).

The company aims to promote employees' well-being through a range of wellness and occupational health programmes. A silver award in the Hong Kong Occupational Safety and Health Council's seventh Occupational Safety & Health (OSH) Awards recently recognised the company's continuous efforts in promoting workplace safety and staff well-being.

"Hongkongers spend way too many hours at work. We want our employees to feel good about coming to work and to ultimately see this as the best place to further their careers," says Mrs Lok.

Following feedback from an annual staff survey, HSBC Insurance makes its wellness programme a priority and is committed to creating a safe and healthy work environment.

"Results from the survey tell us that aside from offering an attractive remuneration package and career development opportunities, we need to take care of our employees' physical and mental well-being," Mrs Lok notes.

A work-life balance not only helps improve staff's health, but also their engagement at work, productivity and operational efficiency, she adds.

Healthy plus

Finger on the pulse: Polly Yip, head of human resources, HSBC Insurance Hong Kong, with a Chinese medicine practitioner at an HSBC staff healthcare session
The company started promoting occupational health in the office several years ago with regular lunch talks by psychologists, nutritionists and doctors.

"Last year, we introduced a company wellness day featuring medical check-ups and massage services to get employees to participate actively in creating a balanced work life," Mrs Lok remarks.

Regular Tai Chi and yoga classes, stretching exercises and other fitness activities also help to promote physical health.

"On average, our staff spend a good eight to 10 hours a day at work. We therefore encourage them to spare some time during working hours to do simple stretching exercise," Mrs Lok says.

To increase staff awareness and encourage active participation, each department has nominated an occupational safety and health ambassador to undergo training on the Hong Kong Occupational Safety and Health Council's latest rules and regulations, as well as ergonomic seating, furniture design and arrangement.

Once they have completed the training, the ambassadors may coach new recruits and colleagues on seating postures and ergonomic furniture arrangement to avoid occupational health problems.

"In a typical office environment, a caring and considerate employer can go a long way in helping to reduce staff stress and increase motivation," Mrs Lok says.

In conjunction with specialist counselling organisations, HSBC Insurance runs an employee assistance programme as an additional channel to help staff relieve stress. The company also demonstrates its commitment to well-being by offering stress management workshops.

"Employees who feel uncomfortable talking about their issues to family, friends or colleagues may call the programme hotline anonymously and obtain advice from trained counsellors," Mrs Lok notes.

Ideal environment

HSBC Insurance believes office design is also key to facilitate employees' engagement. In line with the range of staff wellness programmes, the company recently redesigned the office to create a more open concept.

"The extra space and lighting improve their work conditions," Mrs Lok points out. "More importantly, the open office concept promotes open communication, brings them closer to their colleagues and they no longer feel boxed into their cubicles."

Support from both senior management and employees have been essential to driving the company's mission, says Polly Yip, head of human resources, HSBC Insurance Hong Kong.

"It's not a one-sided initiative. We needed the buy-in from staff and their active participation in the wellness programmes," Ms Yip says.

"By cultivating a pleasant workplace, we ensure staff look forward to coming back to work, thus making HSBC Insurance an ideal workplace," she concludes.


Taken from Career Times 24 October 2008, p. A2
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