PRASAD SRIVASTAVA has just put in another 16-hour workday - his eighth this month. Last week his key strategist was moved to the London office, his out-of-work brother wrote again asking for a loan, his mother called to find out if he had gotten rid of his cat before her arrival on Wednesday and his girlfriend broke up with him because he did not spend enough time with her - like her Chinese teacher now does. To make things worse, the World Cup is upon us and there is no way he can use his tickets for the first round matches. After a long chat with his best friend Johnny Walker, he decides it just is not worth it anymore. He considers a six-month shopping holiday touring Southeast Asia to furnish his empty apartment. The yoga retreat his ex-girlfriend was campaigning for starts to sound inviting. He contemplates throwing away his BlackBerry, his umbilical cord to work. But before he can do any of these things the reality of not having a grand job title, a secretary and a fat income brings him down to earth. Finally, the thought of parting with his company's golf umbrella brings him back to work on Monday. 'Keep going for a few more years and it will get better,' he thinks to himself. Prasad's predicament is by no means unique. Almost all of us make concessions for work - whether it is to prove to our bosses that we are team players, to prove to our colleagues that we are committed worker bees, or to boost our own sense of self worth. But what is your real value to the company if you break it all down? Consider this. You signed on to work 40 hours a week but you realise that you may have to work longer during peak season, or a Saturday here and there. You might sometimes come in early to beat the morning rush, or hold a late night phone conference with the US team. Now calculate how many extra hours that adds up to. Many of us work far beyond the hours set in our contracts. If you have a white collar job you should always expect a crisis season or an unexpected pile of work to land on your desk. According to a recent poll conducted by worldwide recruiter Hudson, 67 per cent of 525 local executives surveyed work more than 50 hours per week. Forty-one per cent are working longer hours than two years ago. Hong Kong surpassed Japan for the first time for the number of participants saying they were burnt out. If you are being paid for overtime then you can measure your value at work down to the last minute. But as a white-collar worker, when was the last time you clocked in and out of work? 'Mid to senior managers should not be paid for overtime,' said Richard Letcher of Profiles recruitment agency. '[They are] older and wiser and have the expectation of staying longer when needed. Time management and delegating should be ingrained. If [Hong Kong] companies had to pay overtime, they would go out of business. Hong Kong's success was built on hard work.' According to Mr Letcher, people were overloaded because they had difficulty finding a second in command. Of the candidates that he worked with, three out of 10 were looking for a better balance between their personal and work lives. He said this was the most common reason for people leaving their jobs. Some may have medical conditions or broken families and relationships and were advised by doctors or counsellors to look for another job that allowed them more personal time. Hongkongers work on average one and a half hours more per week than Australians, five hours more than Americans and 10 hours more than the French, Germans and Italians. Mr Letcher said most people in other parts of the world left work when it was still light. 'Hong Kong people are very hard working compared with other countries,' said one worker who used to leave work at 9pm every night. 'Sadly, in some companies, staff will not leave until the boss has left,' he said. 'It is ingrained in them that the oldest, most senior members leave before they do. Most of the time spent after hours is spent surfing the Web, handling personal affairs or other non-work related items. Culturally, it is embarrassing to leave on time.' Overtime is associated with giving your boss your best efforts and performance, but this is very much short-term thinking. Left unchecked, the worker will start to burn out. Putting in a few extra work hours is not necessarily a bad thing. It is about knowing when to put them in. If you walk in earlier than your scheduled time in the morning you are seen as a dedicated worker, motivated in the morning to come in earlier to start your day. But when you stay late into the evening you risk being looked at as someone who is playing catch-up and does not have good time management skills. Of course we are all expected to put in some extra hours when needed. But achieving a good work-life balance is an important message to push if a company is to retain their key employees. And the message needs to come from the top. At elevator company Otis there is a mandatory 'leave work on time day' once a month. All of its 1,100 employees are ordered to shut down their equipment and spend a few extra hours relaxing or with their loved ones. There has been a long push to cut back the 5?-day working week to a Monday to Friday schedule. And things are finally starting to happen. Thirty-eight government departments will progressively begin the five-day work week starting on July 1.