Global executives wrestle with the impact of COVID-19

| 03 Nov 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a test for the global economy. Executives from Asia and the world have had to make quick, difficult calls to adjust their business operations, people and plans to the emerging "next normal", taking an unprecedented toll on many. Neil Kirby, Marketing and Consumer Sales Director, Bupa Global, shares his views.

Bupa Global’s first-ever Executive Wellbeing Index revealed the highest-ranking priorities and concerns of 2,000 senior executives, business owners and high-net-worth individuals across Hong Kong, Mainland China as well as the UK, US, France, Egypt and the UAE.

Bleak global economic outlook from senior executives in Hong Kong and Mainland China

The broad range of lockdown or semi-lockdown measures around the world has led to different views among senior executives towards the pandemic situation and future planning.

In some markets, health and safety concerns have taken precedent, while many also voiced worries over the current economic outlook.

The most prominent were those from Hong Kong (11%) and Mainland China (18%), who were amongst the least optimistic about the global economy – lower than the global average of 26%.

Source: Bupa Global

Hong Kong executives under physical and mental stress

The pandemic has emphasised the need for mental wellbeing to become an open discussion in corner offices.

In fact, when surveying the respondents of the Executive Wellbeing Index, 82% said they had suffered from varying degrees of physical and mental stress over the past year, with common symptoms including depression, anxiety, sleeping disorder, fatigue, anger and mood swings.

Hong Kong ranks high on the list according to the Bupa research, above both global and Mainland numbers. 88% of senior executives in Hong Kong said they had experienced a significant amount of stress. A third had experienced at least three physical or mental health symptoms, 22% had suffered from mental exhaustion or burnout, and 1% of them had even experienced hallucinations.


Signs of mental health problems
of varying degrees are felt
during the outbreak

Plan to work from home
most of the time
Consider purchasing
additional private health insurance
within twelve months
Optimistic about
the global economic outlook
Global  82% 30% 59% 32%
United Kingdom  78% 29% 56% 25%
U.A.E 95% 34% 31% 38%
Egypt 92% 25% 86% 35%
China 70% 43% 79% 18%
Hong Kong 88% 50% 74% 11%
France 72% 27% 47% 27%
United States 66% 32% 31% 34%

Source: Bupa Global


Rethinking the workplace and work-life balance

The growing conversation surrounding mental health has also prompted senior executives to work towards better work-life balance.

In addition to becoming more health-conscious, 65% of senior executives said they will be reorganising their priorities for work and personal life.

This intention to pursue a higher quality of life extends to the ways of working as well. One in five executives plan to continue to work remotely, with many showing preference to flexible work arrangements, especially in Hong Kong and Mainland China, which showed the highest interest to continue working from home.

In line with this trend, we can foresee more companies incorporating digitalisation and technology in their day-to-day operations, for example, using online platforms for meetings and client interactions.

Across all the markets surveyed, executives in Mainland China (42%) expect their companies to focus more on online sales and marketing, while those in Hong Kong (33%) expect to see accelerated digital transformation.

Source: Bupa Global

Broader needs surrounding healthcare and medical insurance

The current global health situation has significantly changed how we view health and healthcare.  

Among those surveyed, Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese executives appear most willing to make significant changes in their life, ranking high on multiple indices including plans to exercise more, spend more time with family and friends, and improve their diet.

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Their intention to purchase self-funded medical health insurance has also risen. Over half surveyed said that they would consider buying additional medical insurance for their families and themselves within the year, with the majority of senior executives in Mainland China (79%) and Hong Kong (74%) being likely to do so.

Apart from traditional medical coverage for in-patient care and critical illnesses, executives are also seeking preventive care and mental health support. Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese executives, in particular, are demanding more comprehensive medical insurance with global network coverage.

As the pandemic continues to impact the near future, the Executive Wellbeing Index offers a temperature check on the state of mind of senior executives globally – giving us insight into healthcare and insurance trends that we can expect to see in the high-end customer group.

The need for mental health support, preventative care as well as virtual consultations will continue to grow as the industry increasingly adopts more digital technology and customised care.

Meeting evolving expectations would require medical insurers to invest resources in enhancing the breadth of health protection to cover overall wellbeing and offer the full arc of healthcare, from preventative care to medical treatment.


Neil Kirby, Marketing and Consumer Sales Director, Bupa Global.
Bupa Global is the international health insurance arm of Bupa, serving 2 million customers around the world. 


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