Mental health has always been a big issue – and not just from a societal perspective.  Many problems people face at home or as a society can be rooted in untreated or undiagnosed mental health issues.  And nowhere is the cost of untreated mental health issues more quantifiable than in the workplace.

Mental Illness in Hong Kong – By the Numbers

They say that in a journey of a thousand miles, it isn’t the mountains ahead that wear you out; it is the pebble in your shoe.  Little things may seem insignificant at first, but slowly but surely, they will wear on you.


A study conducted by The City Mental Health Alliance Hong Kong and Oliver Wyman show that mental illnesses costs Hong Kong employers anywhere from HKD$5.5 – 12.4 billion per year.  Here’s a quick breakdown of where some of these costs come from:

  • HKD$45-180 million in absenteeism (~4 days per year per employee)
  • HKD$4.7-10 billion in lost productivity
  • HKD$0.7-2.2 billion lost in employee turnover (it costs about 6-9 months’ salary to replace a departing employee)

The ROI for employers investing in mental health support programs is clear as well with similar countries like Japan and the UK seen 3.7 times and 4.2 times returns on each dollar invested into mental health support programs like Employee Assistance Programs (EAP).

But despite these clear benefits, only 24% of Hong Kong employers offer EAP services to their staff.  This falls far behind other modern countries whose companies – like Nestle and Doc Martens – have seen greatly increased productivity since implementing an EAP program.

Nestle EAP Case Study

Doc Martens EAP Case Study

What is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?

An employee assistance program (EAP) is a confidential, short term counselling service for employees with personal difficulties that might affect work performance.  EAPs are typically used as part of a larger initiative to promote health and wellness within the organization.  There are a ton of EAP service providers out there and many of them can be included as part of your group benefits plan.  The EAP provider we like to work with is called LifeWorks.

With EAP, employees who are experiencing difficulties in their personal lives or in the work place can reach out to a qualified professional who knows your native language and local culture.  This counsellor is trained to understand and address the mental health needs of your employees.  Every EAP call is different but generally speaking, they can provide the employee with tools to deal with issues like stress, anxiety, anger management, and much more.  Not only that, EAP access is also extended to Spouses and Dependents of your employees as long as they are aged 16-24, are pursing education full time, and live in the same household.  Access to LifeWorks’ EAP is also extended to 3 months following termination to help them deal with the stress of termination and finding another job.

Even though 94% of employees who reach out for counselling with LifeWorks achieve their goals, only 3-7% of employees utilize their EAP even though we know many more are suffering from untreated mental health issues.

LifeWorks EAP

LifeWorks’ EAP program is ideal for Trusted Union and the customers (expats, global business, etc.) we serve because of their global reach.  With over 50 years of clinical expertise in employee assistance and 15 years of providing wellness services, they are well positioned to help your employees no matter where they are in the world, what language they speak, or what issues they face.

Their roster of 100,000 qualified counsellors and specialists can speak 47 languages, work in 180 countries, helping more than 35 million employees.  In ever jurisdiction they work in, they follow strict privacy protocols and are 100% compliant with GDPR, HIPAA, and PIPEDA.  Legally and culturally sensitive information about your employees and organization are kept securely and strictly confidential.

For employers, they also offer anonymized reporting and insights to help you track behaviour and utilization across the organization to give you the data you need to make informed decisions to fine-tune HR programs to unlock the potential of your people and improve business results.

LifeWorks focus is on following proven clinical guidelines to deliver globally consistent results with locally relevant care for your employee and teammates all over the world.  Their services can be accessed over the phone, on their website, or through their award-winning “My EAP & LifeWorks” app.

LifeWorks Expat EAP

Being an expat can be tough.  Often times you are leaving all that you know: friends, family, social circles, and routines behind when you leave on a new work assignment.  Since we do a lot of work with expats at Trusted Union, I also want to highlight their Expat EAP program offering assistance throughout the lifecycle from pre-departure to post-placement.


A LifeWorks counsellor will discuss all aspects of the move with the employee and their family.  They can go over things like: what to expect, risk factors, and how to deal with them.  Once you arrive, they will check in with you to see how you are adjusting.  From there, they can also schedule regular quarterly check-ins to see how you are doing throughout the life of your overseas assignment or business travel.


After you’ve arrived and settled, your Expat EAP Case Manager will also have an informal call with you to see how you are adjusting.  After that, you will have access to your quarterly check-ins and on-demand EAP for whenever you need it.

LifeWorks EAP and COVID-19

The pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus and its ensuing lockdowns and economic turmoil has caused a tidal wave of mental health problems across the globe.  In response to this, LifeWorks has released some free resources that you and your staff may find helpful.