Stuff the turkey, check your work emails instead

According to two surveys, Hong Kong finance professionals are likely to be constantly busy checking emails over the holiday period. Quelle surprise.
Tis the season for workplace surveys
Tis the season for workplace surveys

If you have plans to avoid work emails this Christmas and settle down with the family, don’t do it, you’ll only argue. In any case, you'll be in a minority.

According to the results of two surveys by recruitment group eFinancialCareers, Hong Kong finance professionals are likely to be working or constantly checking emails over the holiday period.

For a region as diverse as Asia — rooted in Buddhist, Hindu, Moslem, Confucian, Maoist, let alone Christian and Western traditions — the celebration of Christmas is patchy. But in the former colonial financial centres of Hong Kong and Singapore (let alone Catholic Philippines), it remains a big thing, comparable with the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Of the 181 finance professionals polled by eFinancialCareers in Hong Kong, 43% said they constantly check work communication during holidays, while 11% said they were expected to work and to be on call.

“It’s quite surprising because it’s one thing checking emails on holiday when others are at work but things are generally quiet at Christmas,” Neil Clark, Asia-Pacific marketing director at eFinancialCareers, told FinanceAsia.

By way of contrast, 32% said they would not monitor emails but colleagues could call, if urgent, and only 14% said they would neither check emails nor take calls. Nor get that promotion, one suspects.

This should of course be filed in the drawer of least surprising revelations of the year considering the ubiquity of smart phones, the demands of work and the occasional boredom of holidays.

“There is an element that has crept in to the financial services industry that people are always ‘on’. Since the financial crisis, there are less people doing more,” Clark said.

In Singapore, the work ethic is somewhat more relaxed, if eFinancialCareers's findings are anything to go by. Only 34% of the 441 finance professionals polled in the Lion City say they constantly check emails on holidays and only 6% say they were expected to work or be on call.

42% say they do not monitor emails but would accept an urgent call and 18% said they do not answer calls or monitor emails.

Poll number two

Of course, the practise of “monitoring” work events in free time extends to weekends and this is where the second survey comes in, which polled 695 finance professionals in Hong Kong.

The results are, again, unsurprising in that eight out of 10 respondents said their weekends have been disrupted by work. A further 69% have had their holidays interrupted by work matters while 36% have on occasion had to cancel altogether.

Is any of this actually important? How vital is that oft-touted work-life balance your friends sometimes drone on about? Should a holiday actually be a holiday? Or is it human nature to keep abreast of developments at work?

“Yes, the idea of switching off for 24 consecutive hours per week is an attractive and beneficial one, an idea we admire because it reminds us of other, simpler ways of living,” Dr Mark Greene, counsellor and psychotherapist in a private practice in Hong Kong, told FinanceAsia.

So, Work 0 Work-life Balance 1.

“Putting the idea into practice, however, may be destined to have the same fate as New Year's resolutions: making the resolution helps everyone but actually following through helps only a minority,” Greene said.

See. Work-life balance is selfish.

A quick poll of the FinanceAsia office suggests everyone will be on call during the holiday period and everyone will monitor emails. That said, no one is expected to work but everyone will be in trouble if they don’t.

So Merry Christmas. But not too merry. Think of your colleagues. Oh, and when you’re stuffing the turkey make sure you put your smartphone down first.

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