Reducing Stigma and Tackling Mental Health in the Workplace
AXA Hong Kong and Macau, a member of the AXA Group, is a top-tier life insurer in Hong Kong with a proud history dating back to 1986. Providing a highly diversified offering of integrated solutions across Life, Health, and Property & Casualty, AXA is the most considered insurance brand in Hong Kong and currently serves over 1.5 million customers with superior products and services.
AXA recently launched ‘Mind Health’, a comprehensive one-stop mental health programme for corporations in Hong Kong. Tackling the prevalent issue of mental health in the workplace, AXA has partnered with Gleneagles Hong Kong Hospital and various well-being apps to provide a wealth of digital tools promoting mental well-being at work.
The Social Issue
Over the last two decades, studies have been published detailing the impacts of mental ill-health in the workplace, helping to reduce stigma and raise awareness of the topic. While this is a welcome global trend, in Hong Kong, support structures ensuring the mental well-being of people at work are still largely insufficient to meet employee needs.
As a major business hub, Hong Kong is an incredibly fast-paced city where long working hours can distort employees’ work/life balance, negatively affecting their mental well-being. Indeed, surveys indicate that 1 in 3 employees working in professional services in Hong Kong have experienced a mental health problem while in employment.
Hong Kong is seriously under-resourced in terms of psychologists and psychiatrists, with only 4.6 public sector psychiatrists available per 100,000 inhabitants versus 8.59 for high income countries. According to the SCMP, the longest waiting time for mental health support stands at more than three years. Moreover, studies have shown that the younger generation in Hong Kong is disproportionately affected by stress, depression and anxiety, an issue compounded by an entrenched reluctance across all demographics to seek professional help concerning mental health.
People constitute the most important assets of a company and AXA understands that employee well-being is crucial to business success. Indeed, workplace well-being is linked to higher performance, higher retention rates and higher revenue. By contrast, illness and stress can come at a great cost – not only to employees, but to businesses’ bottom line as well. According to a report carried out by CMHA Hong Kong (2019), the total costs associated with mental ill-health for employers within the professional services industries ranged from HKD 5.5 to 12.4 billion per year. This represents 40-90 times the amount spent on Employee Assistance Programmes. By addressing mental health in the workplace in Hong Kong, AXA is looking to help corporate employers ensure the well-being of their staff, while simultaneously building a more resilient workforce.
The Shared Value Solution: AXA Mind Health Programme
Having identified a gap in the market, AXA consulted with various mental health experts and partnered with Oxford VR to develop a comprehensive mental health programme. AXA also leveraged their technical expertise in data analytics and extensive client network. In October 2019, AXA conducted a soft launch of ‘Mind Health’, Hong Kong’s first end-to-end mental health programme for corporations. Designed to improve the mental wellbeing of employees by bridging gaps in knowledge, trust and support, the programme offers engaging and effective mental health support to corporate customers and their employees under the Employees Benefits Plan.
Building on the successful launch, AXA announced a full upgrade of the programme in May 2020 to better address the increasing needs in society following the deterioration in mental health triggered by COVID-19. The programme consists of three core elements, ranging from Education to Prevention to Support.
Education: Bespoke workshops and webinars to educate employees, raise awareness and reduce stigma.
For instance, AXA arranges mental health ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions and invites a variety of experts to conduct talks and share real-life cases around mental wellbeing. The ‘Mind Health’ Programme features the newly integrated ‘Programme Assistance for HR’. This provides personalised support, communication tools to facilitate employee engagement, and a reporting analytics function. Companies have access to a dedicated point of contact from the AXA Mind Health team to help users every step of the way. This service also provides valuable analytics on its digital wellness tools to keep track of employee engagement and evaluate the effectiveness of the programme.
Prevention: A series of digital tool-kits designed to support and empower employees accessible anywhere at any time.
Through its integrated e-Service platform ‘EMMA by AXA’, users can access health information and learn good practices. These include mindfulness and meditation techniques, available via carefully curated apps such as Mental Health Guru, Moodgym and Smiling Mind. Users have free access to these tools and can learn how to build resilience and prevent depression and anxiety.
Support: A suite of experienced coaches and healthcare professionals offering individualised support and guidance.
‘AXA Mind Health Network’ is newly set up and is run in partnership with Gleneagles Hospital Hong Kong. AXA Mind Health users can access the exclusive AXA Mind Health Network which provides preferential rates to a comprehensive range of personalised treatments and support packages delivered by experienced healthcare professionals. In addition, employees of companies who have joined the programme can also seek help from experienced coaches for private guidance or access the ‘Oxford VR’ virtual reality therapy to help manage their mental stress.
AXA’s exclusive partnership with Gleneagles Hospital Hong Kong provides corporate employees with access to family doctors with special interest in psychology medicine, offering a more holistic approach to mental health. Equipped with the professional knowledge in addressing both the physical and mental needs of patients, family doctors offer a familiar and less intimidating access point for employees seeking professional mental health support.
Insurance is not just about claims. In the spirit of Shared Value, AXA is committed to transforming itself from a payer to a partner. By addressing the psychological needs of employees in Hong Kong, AXA hopes to improve well-being and enhance work efficiency of corporates in the long term.
AXA’s ‘Mind Health’ Programme leverages the business’ core competencies and the power of collaboration to create Shared Value. In striving to promote mental well-being in the workplace, AXA aims to reconceive the market of corporate mental health support systems to create competitive advantage.
Future Outlook and Practical Challenges
It is too early to tell whether AXA’s initiative will succeed in reducing the stigma surrounding mental health in Hong Kong and improve the mental wellbeing of employees. Nevertheless, the initial feedback has been positive. As the first adopter of AXA’s programme, professional services firm Deloitte has successfully integrated ‘Mind Health’ and has worked with AXA to address some implementation challenges. Indeed, Deloitte is pleased to have had this innovative programme in place to enhance their employees’ mental health and empower them to address future workplace challenges, demonstrating their ‘4+1’ culture of Courage, Innovation, Inclusion, Wellbeing + Integrity across the firm.
By enabling autonomous access to a comprehensive mental health tool-kit, the new platform offers full privacy for employees. Moreover, being available 24/7, ‘Mind Health’ can mitigate the problem of ‘human touch’ by providing a service that is accessible when vulnerable employees most need it. Going forward, AXA’s ‘Mind Health’ Programme will seek to stimulate user engagement by providing more tailored services and digital tools through cooperation with its corporate clients.
Given the severe impact of COVID-19 and increasingly strained political climate in Hong Kong, ensuring employee well-being and safeguarding their mental health is crucial. AXA hopes their proactive approach to addressing mental health in the workplace will inspire a broader shift in strategic thinking towards adopting Shared Value.
Reduced Stigma – Raised awareness of impact of mental ill-health in the workplace
Enhanced Productivity – Mental well-being increases employee motivation and work efficiency
Improved Mental Health– Sufficient support structures in the workplace to ensure employee well-being
Increased Resilience – More adaptable workforce able to overcome future challenges
Positive Workplace – Healthy minds translate into a happier and more fulfilling working environment
Product Differentiation – First-mover advantage through market-first end-to-end mental health programme providing an additional revenue stream
 Top tier insurers are defined based on the annualised premiums of Individual Direct New Business (Classes A to F) of Statistics on Hong Kong Long Term Insurance Business published by the Insurance Authority
 AXA Hong Kong Brand Preference Tracking Report 2019
 Including customers of AXA China Region Insurance Company Limited, AXA China Region Insurance Company (Bermuda) Limited (incorporated in Bermuda with limited liability), and AXA General Insurance Hong Kong Limited
 City Mental Health Alliance Hong Kong (2019). Mental Health in the Workplace: survey of Hong Kong employees in professional services firms. https://www.cmhahk.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/20190125-Mental-health-in-the-workplace_EN_WEB.pdf
 Mindhk (2019). Mental Health in Hong Kong. https://www.mind.org.hk/mental-health-in-hong-kong/
 Cheung, E. (2018, July 20). Up to three-year wait at public hospitals for mentally ill patients. Retrieved from https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2072183/long-waiting-times-hong-kong-public-hospitals