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Hong Kong economy

How Hong Kong may be working itself sick, and killing productivity

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 September, 2018, 3:33pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 September, 2018, 3:33pm

I refer to the August 27 column by Peter Kammerer (“Hong Kong falls behind in equality, poverty reduction and environmental protection – but leads in arrogance”).

Among the many factors mentioned for reduced quality of life, Mr Kammerer noted how the issue of standard working hours, which should be a given, is instead allowed to slide in the face of opposition from the “greedy business community”.

In fact, long hours have come to be ingrained in the Hong Kong working culture. But non-stop activity does not necessarily mean higher productivity. Actually, overwork can not only make us physically sick from chronic stress, but can also undermine our creativity and cognitive abilities. Hongkongers put in the longest overtime hours in Asia, according to a 2015 survey by a global office space provider.

Why are Hongkongers working themselves to death?

For overworked Hongkongers, I suggest “active rest”, a concept I came across in a BBC article last year. “Active rest” does not mean being idle. If we put aside our work when we start to feel tired and allow our brain a moment of “unfocus”, taking a short walk or just leaving our desks, it refreshes our mind and helps us to be more efficient, improving memory and focus.

Successful people such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates believe in this theory. The key is to have a strong work ethic – but also stay dedicated to rest and play.

Yan Lam, Tseung Kwan O