Malaysia’s workforce is generally unhealthy, where 64 percent of those surveyed are physically inactive, says RAND Europe Vice President Dr Christian van Stolk. NSTP File pic.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian employees lose 67 days a year to absenteeism or presenteeism due to poor health and fitness.

Presenteeism is when an employee works while sick, causing productivity loss, poor health, exhaustion and workplace epidemics.

The average yearly cost of health-related absenteeism and presenteeism per organisation is estimated at RM2.7 million.

This is just one of the findings of the 2017 Malaysia’s Healthiest Work Place by AIA Vitality on 47 small, medium and large-sized companies in cities across Malaysia.

The survey, conducted by research agency RAND Europe, revealed some real concerns about stress in the workplace and issues surrounding sleeps patterns in corporate Malaysia.

According to RAND Europe Vice President Dr Christian van Stolk, losing 67 days per employee per year due to health-related absenteeism and presenteeism would cost an organisation around RM2.7 million.


Malaysian employees carried more health risks compared to their peers from Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia. File pic. (Image is for illustration purpose only).

“Malaysia’s workforce is generally unhealthy, where 64 percent of those surveyed are physically inactive, 90 percent do not eat balanced diet and 53 percent experience work-related stress,” he explained when presenting the survey findings at Malaysia’s Healthiest Workplace Summit at a hotel here recently.

One of the reasons why employees come to work despite feeling under the weather was their work commitments.

“Research studies have shown that presenteeism can be linked to workplace policies which have been put in place to manage absenteeism.

“Job demands also come into play, with heavy workloads, understaffing, overtime and looming deadlines all motivate people to work, even though they are in less than optimal health,” he explained.

HIGHEST HEALTH RISKS

A total of 5,369 employees took part in the 40-minute online survey on the health and wellbeing at their workplace, held between May 18 and July 18 this year.

The research, based on Britain’s Healthiest Workplace was also conducted in Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia.

According to van Stolk, the survey revealed that Malaysian employees carried more health risks compared to their peers from the three other countries.

“This was driven by behaviours and factors such as poor nutrition, physical inactivity, long hours spent at work, a lack of sleep and stress observed,” he explained.

Malaysia showed the highest percentage of employees who slept less than seven hours a night at 56 percent and 90 percent of those surveyed do not eat a balanced diet.


One of the reasons why employees come to work despite feeling under the weather was their work commitments. File pic. (Image is for illustration purpose only).

Malaysian workers also worked the longest hours a week compared to their peers in the three countries, at an average of 15 hours above their contracted hours each week.

In addition to that, Malaysian employees also account for the highest adult smoking rates compared to Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong, with 11 percent of the Malaysian workforce engaged in the habit.

STRESS IN THE WORKPLACE

Along with the lack of sleep and poor lifestyle habits comes work stress, with 53 percent reporting at least one dimension of work-related stress.

Financial concerns are also an issue among Malaysian workers, with 20 percent reporting “a lot” of financial concerns and 12 percent of employees experience high levels of anxiety or depressive symptoms.

Workers also reported incidences of bullying in the workplace with 18 percent of employees expose to bullying at work and 4 percent of Malaysian employees reporting that they were bullied “often or always”.

The survey’s local academic partner Associate Prof Dr Wee Lei Hum from the Health Science Faculty of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said that employers have a major role in motivating employees to change.


Malaysia showed the highest percentage of employees who slept less than seven hours a night. REUTERS file pic.

Wee who spoke to Bernama after the media conference said that one of the reasons that bullying incidences were higher in Malaysia compared to the other three countries surveyed were the local culture and perceptions.

“Malaysians are generally a subservient lot. They apply it into all aspects of their lives and unwittingly allow themselves to be bullied in the process.

“It is hoped that the results of the survey would raise awareness among employers so that they could take the moves necessary to remedy the situation,” she explained.

Wee also believed that when it comes to employee health, prevention was better than cure in that it also increases an organisation’s productivity.

She also stressed on the importance of scheduled health screenings for employees for the early detection of physical or mental health risks.

EMPLOYERS’ MOVE

The Malaysia’s Healthiest Workplace Survey by AIA Vitality allows employers to take a better look at the health and wellbeing of their employees.

AIA Malaysia CEO Anusha Thavarajah said that Malaysians generally spend the biggest bulk of their time at their workplace.

“At the moment, there is not much focus on employer role in advocating better health in the workplace.


AIA Malaysia CEO Anusha Thavarajah said that Malaysians generally spend the biggest bulk of their time at their workplace. NSTP file pic by HALIM SALLEH.

“As a major provider of worker benefits scheme in the country, AIA believes that the survey serves as a platform that is useful not only in promoting workplace health awareness but also encourages constructive discussions for the next step. In any case, a healthy workforce is good for business,” said Anusha.

She also recommended for employers to use the survey results to address the issues at hand by turning them into the focus of their corporate strategy.

Companies can provide proactive intervention programmes that promote positive behavioural changes among employees based on their feedback and data on their health and wellbeing.

“We believe that eventually, such interventions will aid companies in providing better workplace that attracts and retains its manpower, increases employee involvement and ultimately increases business productivity. This will benefit the workers, employers and nation,” she said.--BERNAMA

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