Health and wellness

Hong Kong’s long hours and toxic offices reflect a global problem that needs action

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 August, 2018, 6:34pm
UPDATED : Monday, 06 August, 2018, 6:34pm

Hong Kong is no stranger to toxic workplace environments (“Are Hong Kong’s long hours and toxic offices driving us out of our minds?”, July 27).

It would be an understatement to say that city workers are under stress, as many mental health problems can be traced to toxic offices. There are no restrictions on working times in Hong Kong, and a fifth of its workforce spends up to six hours extra at work each week, a 2015 study showed. Also, a survey the same year by the Swiss banking group UBS found Hong Kong employees clocked up to 50.1 hours per week, the highest among the 71 cities compared.

And in May, all hopes of a standard hours legislation were dashed when government decided to issue non-binding guidelines for 11 labour-intensive trades, by 2020. That was a further blow to Hongkongers constantly working overtime without compensation.

Top of the 2018 wish list for Hongkongers: shorter working hours

Longer working hours take a toll in terms of both human resources and financial costs. The mental health of workers is extremely vital in achieving a cost-effective and productive working pace. A study by the medical journal The Lancet showed that people who worked more than 55 hours a week had a 33 per cent greater risk of stroke, while another by the European Heart Journal showed long work days can cause irregular heartbeats.

Hong Kong government studying link between long working hours and employee deaths

Chronic stress and sedentary jobs can lead to obesity and sleep disorders, and the risk of developing depression, cardiovascular problems, diabetes, ulcers and even some forms of cancer. Aside from health demerits, viewed from the economic side, depression and anxiety disorders are estimated to cost the global economy US$1 trillion a year.

In short, toxic offices are a global problem. Action needs to be taken by both the employers and employees, for a friendlier and hence more efficient workplace.

Anakin Tam, Tseung Kwan O