Leisure time shrinking despite five-day week

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 October, 2008, 12:00am

Workers get only about 10 hours a week for their personal matters - the lowest in three years - and they are more willing to sacrifice their leisure time for work in the face of economic turmoil, a poll has indicated.

A third of the 1,011 respondents to the survey on the work-life ratio of Hongkongers said they might change jobs to seek a better balance, and more than 20 per cent said they would consider leaving the city for the same reason.

The survey also found that despite shrinking leisure time, the average time spent at work has also dropped slightly. Researchers said one reason was the introduction of a five-day week last year.

The work-life ratio has edged up to 84:16 this year from 83:17 last year.

Shalini Mahtani of Community Business that conducted the survey for a third year said maintaining a balance had never been more important as the economy stalled. 'If employers try to work the most out of their staff, they risk inducing fatigue, neck pain and stress which would compromise their health and productivity ... They may not have the luxury to quit now in a bad economy, but when things get better, I assure you, they will leave at once.'

More than 62 per cent of respondents said they suffered from prolonged fatigue, insomnia and poor diet because of long work hours.

However, average work hours per week have dropped from 51.3 in 2006 to 49 this year. Hong Kong University public opinion programme director Robert Chung Ting-yiu, who headed the survey, said this had to be due to the five-day work plan.

However, employees also reported less time with families and on personal activities. Leisure time dropped from 12 hours last year to 10.4.

Dr Chung said he did not know if this was because people were taking their work home, or whether respondents did not consider so much time travelling, studying or idling as 'personal time'.

Meanwhile, 120 companies joined first the Community Business Work-Life Balance Day yesterday. Kowloon Shangri-la hotel provided several 'stretching breaks' for staff, Barclays Capital brought in masseuses to give employees neck massages, while others encouraged workers to leave at 7pm. Ms Mahtani said more corporations were taking steps to boost staff well-being through the introduction of paternity leave or 'duvet leave', where staff could take a rest day. Standard Chartered Bank was considering offering staff a day off on their birthday.