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Gordon Watson

Gordon WatsonChief Executive Officer of AXA Asia & Africa

June 29, 2022

The Mental Health Benefits of Helping Others

The past few months have been particularly difficult in Hong Kong, mainland China and elsewhere in Asia, as Covid-19’s omicron variant surged through communities. This has been a huge test of resolve, from which we are still emerging, but we know that we can draw strength from helping one another. Our AXA Week for Good 2022 offers me and my colleagues across Asia and Africa a chance to do just that.

The situation in Hong Kong during the fifth wave brought echoes of 2020. But unlike those early, panicked days, we had a roadmap for riding out the ordeal. We knew how to work from home, how to exercise in our apartments, how to stay connected with friends via video chat, and how to bake bread.

Now that things have opened up again, I hope we can further fuel the recovery through acts of kindness and support. Individual self-care is crucial, but connecting with our community and helping those in need will not only create tangible good in society, it will also help reinforce our collective mental health.

Research has shown that volunteering gives a noticeable boost to participants’ happiness levels. In a study published in 2020 in the Journal of Happiness Studies, researchers in the UK found that levels of happiness and good mental health were higher among people who did volunteer work compared with those who didn’t.

The study went on to demonstrate that happiness rose over time even in people who started at relatively low levels, suggesting that the volunteer work was the contributing factor.

Another study, carried out in Hong Kong by Nielsen and Hands On Hong Kong found that not only did volunteering benefit individuals, it also benefited teams of colleagues, who felt volunteer work helped them bond and boosted their sense of belonging in their company.

In Hong Kong, where I am based, AXA is conducting several programmes as part of our Week for Good 2022. The goal is to encourage our people to engage in community service alongside their co-workers and improving their own mental and physical health.

This includes offering educational workshops about green practices such as upcycling, climate impact and a green-eating challenge. In the AXA Walk for Green, staff are encouraged to engage in some physical exercise with the accumulated steps converted into a donation of plant-based food to local underprivileged families.

Group participation in volunteer work is also a good way to help employees feel connected to each other and their community. Workplace volunteer programmes improve productivity, employee engagement and hiring and retention, the Harvard Business Review reports.

Yet I always encourage our employees and others to look beyond company-sponsored volunteering opportunities to find even more ways to be active in our community. Our newfound comfort with operating in online environments such as Zoom means volunteer work can be truly global in scope. For example, organisations such as Goodera coordinate such virtual volunteer opportunities with a specific focus on helping those affected by Covid-19.

Another way to give back is to foster an animal. In the current environment, some of those who are relocating have had to make the difficult decision to leave their pets behind. Animal shelters are seeing a significant uptick in surrendered pets, with dwindling interest in permanent adoptions. However, many also allow people to care for animals temporarily, from a single day to a few months.

Though this began as a tough year, we are hopeful that the situation is getting better. I hope this shared experience will spur us all to think more about how we can help each other, and ourselves, get through our daily lives and face new crises. The more we can do to serve our communities, the stronger we will be as individuals and as a society moving forward.

Le contenu de cet article reflète les opinions de l'auteur concerné et pas nécessairement celles du Groupe AXA.
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