Hong Kong bosses most demanding in region

Working late, working weekends and not taking holidays? You probably work in the financial industry in Hong Kong.
Bosses from hell...
Bosses from hell...

On Anette Jönsson’s second consecutive day of facing more deals worthy of daily coverage than you could count on one hand, and when she was also worrying about a cover story I’d asked her to write, she forwarded me a press release from Robert Half headlined: Hong Kong bosses most demanding in region.

According to the survey, 68% of employers said they expect their employees to be available or contactable while on annual leave or out of office hours, which is well above the regional average of 40% (Singapore: 45%; Australia: 22%; and New Zealand: 20%). Considering most FinanceAsia staff work weekends, and nights, perhaps Anette is trying to tell me something.

The survey of 1,651 human resources, finance and accounting professionals in Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand focused on 410 professionals in Hong Kong, who might as well have included FinanceAsia staff.

It revealed that the highest demand is on middle managers, with 76% of respondents indicating they expect middle managers to be available while on holiday or outside office hours, compared with 47% of senior management or directors, and 23% of junior or entry level staff. That rings true.

According to the survey, employers are known to compensate their staff with time off in lieu and overtime payment for extra hours worked, but not all employees are rewarded for staying late. While 49% of Hong Kong finance professionals said they get time off and 46% get overtime payment for additional hours worked, 16% said that they are not remunerated for working overtime.

The survey went on to offer advice, which I’ll reprint here, though I suspect my staff would prefer I simply heed.

“In an environment where employees have had to help companies ‘do more, with less’ for some time, many are in need of a healthier work-life balance,” said Andrew Morris, managing director, Greater China, Robert Half International. “While technology can keep us connected 24/7, employers should resist the temptation to phone or email employees outside of work hours unless it’s truly urgent.”

“Employers must respect their staff’s need to properly unplug. They can do this by arranging proper ‘handovers’ when staff go on holiday and bringing in temporary staff to cover when key employees go on leave so that important tasks keep moving forward,” added Morris.

Compared to other finance professionals in the region, Hong Kong employees stay the most tuned-in to work during their down time with 77% claiming that they remain connected to work or do work-related tasks while on holiday (Singapore: 69%; Australia: 58%; and New Zealand: 62%). They indicated the top reasons for staying connected are the need to be available in case of emergency (51%), technological advancements that allow access to information anywhere in the world (38%) and the inability to switch off (34%).

As an American, I say blame Canada, those dangerous neighbours to the north. If Ontario-based Research in Motion hadn’t have invented a BlackBerry, folks wouldn’t be so in-tune to work, and out-of-tune to cocktails, dinners and movies. We think we can simultaneously text, talk and drink a Chardonnay, but let’s face it, most times we’re just being rude and getting ourselves wound up about what we’re missing at work.

Did we need a survey to tell us all this? No, but it’s more subtle than a nervous breakdown. So worth passing on. Thanks Anette. Talk to Jon about the overtime.

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