Being overworked is a fact of life in competitive Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 November, 2015, 10:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 November, 2015, 10:00am

Standard working hours have been a bone of contention between employers and employees. Some say legislation that restrict working hours will mean employees can finally stretch their arms and enjoy a better work-life balance because they will have less work ("Work-life balance worsening, says study", October 29).

I don't think so.

For many jobs, working hours just do not define the workload. Take my father as an example. He has always come home late for dinner since I was a primary student, because he has a very heavy workload. It is also not a rare thing to see him at home with papers in one hand and the mouse in another at midnight.

It is not the lack of standardised working hours that leads him to have such an unbalanced lifestyle, but simply the work given to him was too much for him to finish in the office. I believe that even if working hours were fixed, he would still be given the same amount of work. Perhaps the only difference would be he could get paid for the extra hours of work. Or he could continue to take his work home. The goal of a lighter workload is beyond reach.

For some types of workers who need to attend to emergencies, standard working hours are also not feasible. What if a pipe suddenly broke in the middle of the night? Or the company faces an urgent matter that needs to be fixed? Workers still need to head out to work. They can't just cross their arms and say, "No, I have worked all my hours this month so I don't care". It is their responsibility, so they have to work no matter what.

Though legislating standard working hours has its advantages, expecting such a law to lighten the workload for certain groups of workers, in such a competitive advanced society as ours, will be like asking pigs to fly.

Annabel Che, Tai Wai