Sharmini Wainwright is managing director of Michael Page & Page Personnel Hong Kong. With over 13 years’ experience with PageGroup, she oversees specialist recruitment across finance, financial services, sales & marketing, legal and more.
On-vacation calls the final straw
I already put up with it during the work week, fielding work e-mails and instant messages on my personal mobile phone after work hours. If I don’t respond, I get chased up with follow up phone calls late into the evening. Sometimes, I just want to switch off and have some down time, and it’s so hard to even take leave. The final straw is being contacted while on holiday overseas. I’m supposed to be enjoying my vacation with my family, but instead I’m getting calls and having to find Wi-fi spots to reply to e-mails. How can I enjoy my break when I’m worrying about finding my next internet coverage and when my boss will next call? I don’t even want to think about my mobile bill when I get back to Hong Kong! Can there be work-life balance? I don’t see other departments in this company having the same issue. Do I have to find a new boss? What can I do to break free from this vicious cycle?
Hong Kong is well known for its fast-paced, intense corporate arena which has left many professionals struggling to keep up; therefore your question is not unusual.
Clearly, having to take calls during vacations means your lifestyle is being compromised and is therefore of concern to you. However, I’d like to ask a few questions to further understand the situation.
The first question is: what was the job brief when it was first presented to you? The reason I ask is that in our experience, job briefs are not uncommon where the client has openly stated up front that the role requires being available on demand, for long hours and at times even contactable even during vacation.
Is there a gap between the original job description or brief and your current situation? If so, I would encourage you to raise this matter professionally with your boss to try and understand why this was not openly discussed or raised during your job interview.
The second question relates to the seniority of your role or the role you support – for example, if you are running the finance functions for a region, if you are an EA to a CEO, or if you are processing trades at an investment bank. Clearly these roles are critical to the bigger picture and require your response in a timely matter, regardless of your personal circumstances. That said, such roles are also paid a premium to make up for this time and lifestyle sacrifice.
The third question is whether you have changed personally and no longer find the intensity a challenge or attractive. It is common for people, especially in the earlier stages of their career, to thrive in a work environment where they are called upon to “go the extra mile”.
This might start out as a feasible arrangement, due possibly to the minimal commitments that they have. However, as life progresses and other priorities such as family come to prominence, the focus of some individuals may shift to spreading their time across various aspects of their life, rather than concentrating it on work.
In our experience, it is easier to “change jobs” in these cases than “change the job you are in”.
Sharmini Wainwright is regional director of Page Personnel in Hong Kong. Page Personnel is part of PageGroup, one of the world’s leading recruitment companies operating in 153 offices in 34 countries worldwide.