What balance? Hong Kong survey shows most working people in city think work-life balance is getting worse

Survey finds that 62pc of employees perceive a deterioration; just 14pc are happier

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 October, 2015, 3:02pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 October, 2015, 8:43am

Over 60 per cent of workers feel their work-life balance has worsened, according to a recent survey.

Community Business, a non-profit group advocating responsible business practices in Asia, commissioned the Public Opinion Programme at the University of Hong Kong to carry out phone interviews with over 1,000 employees to find out how they perceived their work-life balance.

READ MORE: Hongkongers have worst work-life balance in Asia-Pacific as 77pc take calls on holiday: survey

The results showed 62 per cent felt it had worsened in the last 10 years.

Only 14 per cent thought it had improved, while about 20 per cent said there had been no change.

Overall, they said they were only about half way towards achieving their ideal work-life balance, regardless of whether they worked for the government or a local, mainland or international company.

Fern Ngai, CEO of Community Business, said employees' sentiments could be traced to the fallout from the 2008 global financial crisis and increased competition among companies.

"People working in banks are quite overworked. They are quite stressed out," said Ngai, who described her professional background as in banking.

She said industry employees had encountered "a lot of turmoil" and "a number of issues", including additional regulations "which means more policies, more procedures", and this had led to greater stress.

"The whole business environment is much more competitive," she added. "Everybody is under a lot of pressure."

READ MORE: One quarter of Hong Kong employees ‘want to quit their jobs’

Asked whether statutory standard working hours would improve the work-life balance in the city, Ngai had her doubts. "There are ways to address work-life balance through measures like flexibility and trying to streamline processes … without the need for legislation."

She added that standardised working hours might be more appropriate for blue-collar workers.

To improve the work-life balance for employees, Ngai suggested that companies should push for a five-day working week and lay out clear rules for flexible working hours.

Ngai said taking on higher costs was “a big consideration [for businesses]”.

With respect to the perceived value of work-life balance, the survey found that of respondents who felt it was not valued, 36 per cent worked for mainland Chinese companies and 32 per cent for local companies.

In contrast, only 19 per cent of respondents employed by international companies felt their employers did not value work-life balance.

Ngai said the discrepancy reflected different working cultures.

Federation of Hong Kong Industries honorary president Stanley Lau Chin-ho said while he agreed that a work-life balance was important, employees in Hong Kong had the option to switch jobs.

Separate research conducted by recruitment firm Randstad this year found Hongkongers had the worst work-life balance among working people in the Asia-Pacific region.