Mindfulness Could Be The Answer To Hong Kong’s Mental Health Woes

SAP not-for-profit Global Mindfulness Practice program is making a positive social and economic contribution while enabling employees to thrive in a connected world

Hong Kong has weathered plenty of storms, and always bounced back. But, the ongoing social unrest is taking its toll on the resilience of local people. According to a recent SCMP story, it has driven the city’s mental health to its lowest level in nearly a decade.

That’s isn’t news to Tony Dickel – a coach, a therapist and the Hong Kong and Greater China Country Director for the organizational effectiveness program provider, the potential project. In fact, he saw it coming years ago. 

“We put many of our new executive coaching clients through a battery of psychometric tests to get a baseline. Four years ago about 20% of them showed signs of moderate or severe stress. Today, that figure is over 40% and rising,” says Dickel.

Much of the stress is workplace related, with people being asked to do more with less. However, as Dickel explains, the bigger problem is that stress levels aren’t linear, and the impact multiplies with the addition of each new factor. 

“The effect of the recent unrest has been catastrophic in terms of mental well-being,” he says, noting that businesses already under pressure from disruptions will experience a double-whammy in lost productivity as staff struggle to cope with increasingly unpredictable events.

When it comes to combating stress, mindfulness matters

In recent years, an increasing number of organizations have turned to mindfulness to address workplace stress. Indeed, the Harvard Business review believes that “Mindfulness should no longer be considered a “nice-to-have” for executives. It’s a “must-have: a way to keep our brains healthy, to support self-regulation and effective decision-making capabilities, and to protect ourselves from toxic stress. 

Although Hong Kong has a reputation as a modern city, businesses can be quite traditional, and sometimes lag behind global trends. According to Dickel, when it comes to mindfulness, Hong Kong is still about 2-3 years behind world markets.

SAP is ahead of the curve. Back in 2013, Peter Bostelmann was an SAP engineer, who brought the concept he described as “the new jogging” to the organization’s attention, and launched a pilot mindfulness training programme. Today, he is SAP’s Chief Mindfulness Officer, in charge of providing internal training to SAP’strong global workforce. He also drives external initiatives, like as The SAP Global Mindfulness Practice program.

Practice makes perfect

A not-for-profit project, The SAP Global Mindfulness Practice program is designed to share SAP’s own experience in establishing mindfulness practices in a global organization, with organizations. It also offers best-practice models to help deliver mindfulness-based programs that make a positive social and economic contribution while enabling employees to thrive in a connected world. 

The goals of the program are to:

  • Help leaders solve complex problems
  • Build resilient teams in times of rapid change
  • Support personal development in the workplace
  • Boost self-awareness and emotional intelligence

It’s easy to get started and the resources are readily available, and completely free-of-charge. For example, there are videos – with titles like “Three breaths,” and “Mindful walking” – where you can learn how a team’s culture can benefit from mindfulness practices by integrating simple techniques that bring positivity and productivity to the work day. Additional mindfulness practices will be launched soon.


Of course, the personal benefits of improved mental health cannot be understated. However, Hong Kong is one of the most entrepreneurial places on the planet. So, the commercial rationale shouldn’t be overlooked either.

And there are certainly plenty of sound commercial reasons why businesses should consider integrating mindfulness practices into their culture and operational landscape. By improving employees’ resilience, reducing the risk of burnout, and increasing brain function, enterprises can create better leaders. Mindfulness training to tackle stress, also  improves employee health, resulting in lower levels of absenteeism, reduced medical costs and higher profits.

An alternative to unhappiness

Ultimately, the biggest value of mindfulness might be its ability to help companies navigate through the rough waters of uncertainty and enable employees to reflect effectively, focus on the task at hand, master peak levels of stress, and recharge quickly.

“Stress is inevitable. But, in many cases, distress is optional, says Dickel. 

Click here to find out more about The SAP Global Mindfulness Practice program

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