Work-Life Balance in Hong Kong: The Perennial Concerns

June 26, 20178:30 am2975 views

Work-life balance is a concept that involves prioritising between work and lifestyle – a concept, which is challenging for many to succeed in, particularly in Hong Kong. The pressure of an increasingly demanding work culture in fast-paced, technology-fuelled lives has caused striking this balance extremely difficult for employers and employees alike. However, new and innovative ways are emerging to address these work-life balance challenges.

The Real Issue

Over the years, Hong Kong has consistently topped the rankings for the city with the worst so-called work-life balance. Online business-to-business marketplace Expert Market found that people in Hong Kong work on an average 50.1 hours a week – that’s 27.4 percent more hours than the global average.

Hong Kong is an incredibly hard-working city. People here are detail oriented, focused and determined to succeed. However, this could be causing some long-term detrimental effects on the workforce.

Back in 2015, a Randstad Workmonitor survey found that:

  • 77% employees in Hong Kong feel pressured to respond to work related calls and e-mails while on holiday.
  • 62% of employees believe their employer expects them to be available by phone and e-mail during holidays.
  • 60% respond to work related calls and e-mails immediately outside regular office hours.

When these surveys were conducted three years ago, Mr Peter Yu, Director of Randstad Hong Kong said, “These figures show that employers in Hong Kong are behind the curve in promoting work-life balance in the workplace, which dampens their talent attraction and retention strategies.”

The role of technology has had a big impact on workers over the last few decades. Mobile phones, Email and laptops enable people to accomplish work outside the boundaries of their office, thus making it difficult to separate work and personal life.

Increasing responsibilities and longer working hours is a major reason for high employee turnover. But perhaps the most significant worry is the affect these issues have on workers stress levels and overall mental health. To combat these worrying issues, there are new ways that are emerging to address the work-life balance challenge in Hong Kong, without any changes to be made to legislation.

It is encouraging to see employers embrace new initiatives and witness the benefits emerging for not only workers and employees but also organisations and work culture as a whole.

See: What Drives Happiness in Hong Kong’s Workplaces?

Striking That Balance

Some employers have responded to this growing issue of work-life balance, by providing employees the ability to work with more flexibility. Companies are slowly realising that giving workers freedom and autonomy brings out the best in them. This includes companies creating flexible workspaces and working arrangements for employees.

Co-working spaces are meeting these growing needs and are growing in popularity – there are currently just over 50 in Hong Kong. Freelancers, entrepreneurs and SME’s typically use co-working spaces. But now large organisations too, are joining in on this revolutionary style of work.

Co-working services provide independence, flexibility and adaptability to people in an environment where they can come and go as they please, work independently or network with those around them. They don’t force the 9 to 5 schedule (or 7 to 11 in Hong Kong).

Results have shown that people working in this environment are happier and have increased productivity, creativity and performance.The whole environment package is said to promote a better work-life balance. From the modern decor and events to the optional socialising before, during and after working hours, many are starting to take advantage of flexible working hours and location as one way to improve that ever-elusive balance in work and personal life.

Some say it is the responsibility of the employer to control and manage stress of their employees. Employers should not email employees outside of work hours, they should set realistic project timelines, and make sure people going on holiday get to hand off their work properly.

However, Hong Kong has been driven to success by their people’s hard work and it is said that if employees want higher wages, shorter hours and more holiday days then Hong Kong will no longer be competitive. Setting your own rules is perhaps not so prevalent in Hong Kong society, but ultimately it may be down to an individual to find their own work-life balance and relying on their own intuition.

The workplace is continually evolving and perhaps there will be a further evolution with the generational attitude shift of the Millennials around the world – 81% of them thinking they should set their own work patterns.

The Future of Work-life Balance in Hong Kong

All this being said, Hong Kong has still a long way to go before being removed from many of the ‘worst work-life balance cities’ lists and being placed on the ‘best work-life balance cities’ lists. However, since the problem has been identified and progress is being made, the constantly evolving workforce is slowly moving towards maintaining a better work-life balance today

Author credit:

Fiona Murray is a 25-year-old MSc Digital Marketing student and Honours Business Management graduate from Scotland. An enthusiast for all things digital and travel related, Fiona has experience living and working in the UK, USA and Asia. She has travelled extensively in order to further her experience of other cultures. Find out more about her on LinkedIn.

Also read: What Tops the Priority List of Employees in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong?

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