According to the Malaysia’s Healthiest Workplace by AIA Vitality 2018 survey, Malaysia continues to be affected by productivity loss in the workplace that is attributed to significant absence (not being at work due to health-related reasons) and presenteeism (being at work when unwell) in its workforce.

A total of 117 organisations of different sizes and sectors participated in this year’s survey, representing a combined workforce of 11,551 employees. This has more than doubled the number of participants from last year’s inaugural survey, indicating Corporate Malaysia’s growing interest to find out where they stand, as well as their commitment to providing better workplaces to attract as well as to retain people.

Since its launch, the survey results have brought to the fore the issue of high productivity loss, as well as other behaviours and factors such as lack of sleep, stress, poor eating, physical inactivity as well as overall mental health and wellbeing.

Among the many survey revelations, mental health remains one of the biggest but least talked-about issues in the workplace. Often, mental health is ignored and left undetected due to stigma and a lack of understanding.

Other issues – stress, organisational culture, leadership and bullying – can also impact the mental health and well-being of the staff which in turn negatively impacts the productivity and performance of the organisation.

The Rise of Mental Health Problems Among Workforce Reduce Productivity

According to the findings of the Malaysia’s Healthiest Workplace by AIA Vitality 2018 survey, employers lost an average of 73.1 days of working hours per employee due to ill-health related absence and presenteeism.

The loss of working days also increased from an average of 67.2 days from 2017, which translates into an estimated cost of RM2.27 mil lost per organisation per year.

Poor Habits Are on the Rise

Malaysian employees are seen to have poor habits as the number of smokers have increased in comparison to other markets (namely, Australia, Hong Kong and Thailand) – 11.1% of employees are currently smokers compared to the average of 7.5% in other markets.

They are also recorded as being most at risk for malnutrition, with 91.7% not eating a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

In addition, 16.6% of Malaysians surveyed are obese. Stress, binge eating, or being overwhelmed at work can be contributing factors to the rise of these poor habits. Last but not least, employees are found to be less likely to make healthy changes if they perceived themselves to be in good health. 13% of employees have four or more risk factors, with 62% of employees believe that they are in good health.

Improved Life and Work Choices Reflect Employees’ Motivation

Malaysia has improved in certain areas – it has the highest number of employees who show motivation in changing their physical activities and weight. More than half of the employees also agreed that leadership in the workplace is positive. The survey indicated that 56% of Malaysians feel that their line managers care about their health and wellbeing.