Some 12 billion working days are lost each year to depression and anxiety alone, while poor mental health cost the world economy USD2.5 trillion, estimates the Global Business Collaboration for Better Workplace Mental Health, a worldwide initiative of which HSBC is one of the founding partners.1
“The pandemic has really put a lot of companies on the spot in terms of how they approach employee welfare,” says Nigar Salmanova, Sustainability Ambassador of the Living Business Program.
Supporting vulnerable populations
In the Middle East, HSBC supports many sustainability projects focusing on strengthening societies and helping the most vulnerable, such as blue-collar workers hard-hit by the pandemic.
“We donate a significant amount to these programmes every year. Many of them have not only been focused on raising capabilities of individuals, but also on increasing the wellbeing of the most vulnerable populations,” Rahman says.
Global labour income declined by 8.3 percent in 2020, amounting to USD3.7 trillion, or 4.4 percent of global GDP, according to estimates by the International Labour Organization. This has widened social vulnerabilities, with detrimental impacts on women, migrant workers and youth.2
In July, HSBC partnered with the Emirates Green Building Council, an independent forum, to launch a programme promoting socially responsible worker welfare practices and strengthening the financial capability of workers.3
The bank announced in August the launch of a joint Saving for Good initiative across the GCC and Egypt with Injaz Al-Arab, which aims to upskill 1,950 low-income workers through a series of financial literacy programmes. The goal is to help participants alleviate job market challenges and save towards a financially resilient future.4
Improving living conditions such as housing and transport for many blue-collar workers, who fear losing income that sustains their families back home if they fall sick, can go a long way to address mental health issues and improve performance.
“A company that employs a large number of blue-collar workers should make sure that the right basics are provided. They do not ask for too much,” says Manjula Ramakrishnan, President of Smart Life Foundation, a UAE-based nonprofit organisation aiming to improve the lives of blue-collar workers.
“Once you have a happy worker, or a happy employee, it's a win-win, because he's going to give his best,” she says.
Measuring the impact
Companies should have a concrete plan for employee welfare, targeting a measurable impact and committing to it on a long-term basis, says Tatiana Antonelli Abella, Founder and Managing Director of Goumbook, a social enterprise which works to raise awareness about sustainability.
“We cannot give and forget anymore, we need to invest time and money as well,” she says.