A new survey of Hong Kong employment conditions has cited long working hours as the top complaint among employees in the financial hub. A domineering senior management and a lack of communication from them also ranked high. The long working hours was cited by 65 per cent of people in an inaugural survey commissioned by law firm Deacons in November last year, amid the worst period of anti-government protests in the city. The survey covered 1, 010 employees and 100 in-house legal and human-resource professionals. Among them, 43 per cent were classified as “entry level or junior” employees, 49 per cent were mid- or senior-level managers, with the rest being directors or corporate-suite officials. They worked in multinational companies, start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises. “I was in labour and even two hours before giving birth, I was still answering my BlackBerry,” said Cynthia Chung, a partner who oversees employment and pensions practice at Deacons in Hong Kong, noting how the digital age has lengthened the work day. “Employers [in Hong Kong] are now thinking of ways to cut the hours. They see others doing something, and they want to catch up.” Will Hong Kong’s problem with long working hours ever come to an end? The survey reinforces a long-standing labour issue in Hong Kong, where workers have the longest hours in office compared to their peers in 70 other cities based on a 2016 study by UBS. That worked out to about 55 hours per week on average in 2018, according to the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, surpassing the statutory limit in some countries including the UK and Japan. T he Labour Department in Hong Kong has said that it may offer guidelines about working hours in 2020, after efforts to define a standard work week stalled for almost a decade. Chung said she was getting more requests from Hong Kong companies about establishing new plans like flexible working hours and working from home option, and cited investment company Sun Hung Kai & Co for its unlimited annual leave policy. Philip Morris’s staff in the city put in 42 hours over a 4.5-day week, the tobacco giant has said. Will Hong Kong ever see a four-day working week? The Deacons survey also showed a stark disconnect between employers and employees on the question of corporate culture. Some 66 per cent of senior HR and legal personnel felt they had a “strong” or “very strong” corporate culture, while 70 per cent of employees described it as “fair, weak or very weak”. In their effort to embrace the start-up culture and feel made famous by Google and Facebook, Hong Kong employers are failing to identify the real source of frustration for their employees, Chung added. Hong Kong government studying link between long working hours and employee deaths “I went to a client’s office, it was so beautiful. There was a start-up, tech feel to it,” she said. “Employers think ping pong and mahjong tables are a good idea. A lot of employers think they have done something good, but that is not what the employees want. This mismatch is quite interesting.” The survey also indicated that younger employees were looking up to senior management for support, Chung said. They wanted to feel more included and welcomed by their senior managers. She did not think that the atmosphere during the survey in November had affected the survey’s outcome, adding that “Generation Z in Hong Kong is just like Generation Z anywhere in the world”, referring to employees who have grown up on the internet and social media.