Paid leave key for stressed workers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 September, 2011, 12:00am


It seems rising stress levels are taking a toll on the city's workforce.

While a global survey finds that workers around the world say pay is the most important factor when deciding if a job is attractive, Hongkongers rate paid leave days at the top of their concerns.

'I think that's a sign of pressure in the workplace,' said Andrew Heard of consultants Towers Watson. 'It's becoming an increasing challenge for people to find leave opportunities even when we do have paid leave days.'

Heard said employees' personal and work hours were becoming blurred by the prevalent use of the BlackBerry.

Deirdre Lander, also of Towers Watson, said a cause of stress for local employees was the high turnover rate in companies.

She said people had to quickly pick up work left behind by those who quit. Another cause of work stress is having to learn new skills when mergers or major organisational changes take place.

The worldwide survey, by Towers Watson, of 20,000 employees was conducted online last year and included 1,000 people from Hong Kong.

It showed that only 47 per cent of Hong Kong respondents considered themselves to be in good health, far lower than 61 per cent in the global workforce. As a result of poor health, the survey found that local respondents have had to take more days of sick leave.

The city's workers say the most desirable quality they want to see in their bosses is a sense of caring for their well-being. The global workforce ranks trustworthiness as being the most desirable asset.

'The workplace is very stressful and Hongkongers want their leadership to understand them, but they are often disappointed,' Lander said.

Gina Parekh, director of health at Towers Watson, said stress and mental illnesses may rank highest in employees' ailments, but companies should be responsible in taking a holistic approach to improve employees' physical, mental and social health.

She said good relationships in the workplace would naturally reduce mental and physical stress.

'A lot of us are spending so much of our waking hours in the office and that means so much of our social interaction is happening in the workplace,' Parekh said. 'Recognition for your work and satisfaction from the work you do is in alignment with physical and mental health.'

Many Hong Kong respondents consider pay levels and career advancement opportunities as being less important than the number of paid leave days. Lander said this indicated that Hongkongers cherish their free time and also showed the importance of health and ample rest for employee productivity.

Heard said there was a misconception that Hongkongers had fewer days of paid leave. 'Hong Kong is actually quite generous with its public holidays.'