Productivity rises as local work-life balance improves
The delicate balance between working and living has evened out slightly for Hong Kong workers, though still lags behind the global average, the latest Regus Work-Life Balance Index reveals.
Now into its second edition, the index gauged the sentiments of 16,000 professionals in more than 80 countries, taking into account their working hours, commuting time and general views on the work-life balance at their firms in the past two years.
The report registered a 6 per cent rise in the work-life balance index for Hong Kong workers between the 2010 and 2012 surveys, against a global rise of 24 per cent in the same period. In addition, 72 per cent of local staff said they enjoy work more than before.
Hans Leijten, Regus' vice-president for East Asia, puts the rise down partly to the global rebound from recent economic turmoil. "After the initial market free-fall prior to 2010, it is not surprising that workers report feeling happier now. There are fewer worries about job security today," he says.
Verifying a connection between productivity and a good work-life balance, a large majority of Hong Kong respondents also reported a rise in effectiveness since 2010, with 79 per cent stating that they achieved more at work in the recent survey period.
A good balance between working and living can be best attained through flexibility in the workplace, Leijten says. He points out that this means providing employees with the tools to work when and where they need to. Flexible working also requires establishing a good management system that can monitor employees based on performance rather than presenteeism.
Robin Bishop, chief operating officer for Community Business, an NGO that advocates corporate social responsibility issues in Asia, says that an over-focus on presenteeism has long hindered many local companies. "The long working hours which are commonplace in Hong Kong are resulting in a culture of presenteeism for some organisations - employees being present but mentally or physically unwell and therefore not working to their full capability."
Bishop adds that organisations could overcome this by giving employees greater control over when, where and how they work through the adoption of formal and informal flexible working arrangements.
Leijten agrees, saying: "A flexible working strategy will allow a business to reduce the money wasted on workspace that is not being used. As a rule of thumb, 40 to 60 per cent of any office space is underutilised, so for cities like Hong Kong, where there are high costs for commercial space, there are big savings to be made."
Leijten cites mobile technological innovations as possible causes of the improved work-life-balance figures. "Work is evolving from being a place to go to, to something you do," he says. "Thanks to technology, we can work anywhere, anytime. Organisations can make big savings while creating a better and more productive work environment."