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Chinese Workplace Wellbeing

Chinese Workplace Wellbeing

Workplace Wellbeing in the Chinese Business Community in London: Views and Experiences

Start Date:  January 2014     End Date: April 2014      Status: Completed

Background and Rationale

Workplace well-being is central to tackling the social determinants of health and addressing health inequalities. People spend substantial time at work and there is great potential for working conditions to affect their long-term physical and mental health. Employers can benefit from effective workplace well-being in terms of increased productivity and reduced absenteeism. However, working conditions have worsened throughout the UK economy suggesting the need for public policy to intervene in order to create a better working environment with resulting benefits in terms of improvements in work output as well as in the physical and mental health of the working population.

Little is known about workplace health in the context of ethnic minority businesses and even less on Chinese owned businesses. Yet, the Chinese population is one of fastest growing ethnic minorities in the UK and Chinese businesses are likely to become a substantial asset to the UK economy. Against this background, this study explores the views and perceptions of Chinese employees and employers as well as opinion leaders on workplace well-being in the Chinese business community in London. The specific aims were to understand the context and approach to staff well-being within Chinese owned businesses based in London and to identify any potential levers, barriers and triggers for engaging Chinese led businesses in work place well-being initiatives.


This qualitative study included a number of face-to-face interviews and focus group discussions with employers and employees in Chinese businesses, which provided the basis for an interesting comparison between these two groups. We also carried out interviews with opinion leaders who are experts on occupational health and workplace health strategies in general, and on the working conditions and prevailing culture within the Chinese business community, in particular.  A third strand of our methodology was a literature review. It is important to note that this brief study could only include a small number of employers and employees working in a busy London district and willing to offer their views, thus subjecting their perceptions and experiences to public scrutiny.  While this may limit the generalizability of the findings, the study nevertheless offers valuable insights into the status of workplace well-being in Chinese businesses and our recommendations may provide a useful guide to further academic research and policy in this field. 

Main Findings:

Future research

We identified four areas for future research:
  • Research on British born Chinese owned businesses: very little is known about the attitudes of British born Chinese towards workplace well-being. In order to understand the future challenges for workplace well-being, research on their attitudes and perspectives and how these might be different from the older generations of business owners would be important. .
  • Systematic review: there are sources of evidence on attitudes and behaviours related to work by ethnicity, but little use of this data has been made so far. The data sources need to be identified through a systematic review of the literature, particularly of qualitative surveys commissioned by local and regional public sector organisations in the UK; alongside this, there is a growing literature about workplace health in China which deserves to be systematically reviewed, as the findings may be relevant to the improvement of well-being in Chinese businesses in England.
  • Secondary data analysis: a number of national survey databases with information on the health of ethnic minorities are available. These could be analysed to provide a clearer picture of the health of the Chinese population in the UK.
  • Research on health aspects particularly relevant to the Chinese population: our study revealed that there are health concerns in the Chinese community which have not received much attention previously, including: arthritis; the effect of gambling on mental health; and the situation of Chinese doctors working in Traditional Chinese Medicine who suffer from poor mental health as a result of challenging working conditions. We could find no published studies on these topics and highlight these as potentially important areas for future research.


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Project Lead

Professor Mala Rao, Professor of International Development, IHHD

Project Team
Professor Mala Rao, Dr Marcello Bertotti, Ifeoma Dan-Ogosi, Catherine Coakley, Dr Xia Lin, and Saumu Lwembe

Funder: Commissioned by Public Health England

Report: Download (PDF)

For more information, contact

Dr Marcello Bertotti, Senior Research Fellow, IHHD
t:  +44(0)20 8223 4139; e: