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Market Insights Workforce insights What does ‘work-life balance’ mean to Hong Kongers?
What does ‘work-life balance’ mean to Hong Kongers?

What does ‘work-life balance’ mean to Hong Kongers?

Stress, long hours and competition to get ahead are classic markers of Hong Kong’s working environment, but times are changing. New research depicts emerging demand for ‘work-life balance’ as a key decision driver within the labour market.

Hong Kongers have long endured high levels of toxic stressors resulting from work. A survey from Cigna found that Hong Kong people are the fifth most stressed population globally, with over 90% of people facing stress in their daily lives, significantly above the global average of 86%.

Our Laws of Attraction study found that, whilst salary remains the most important factor for Hong Kongers when considering jobs, the picture is changing fast. ‘Work-life balance’ was mentioned repeatedly by respondents, and was ranked second overall behind ‘salary’.

Feedback from our regular engagement with hirers often highlights the need for better hiring capabilities. Hence, in light of the emerging importance of work-life balance, a strategic reorientation around expressing recognition of its prominence may be valuable to employers.

Hong Kongers call for work-life balance

Laws of Attraction found that 13.1% of respondents considered ‘work-life balance’ one of the main considerations for joining a company, outpacing ‘career development opportunities” to become the second most important factor.

Derivative of these respondents’ views, 59.6% of employees believe that taking public holidays when they’re supposed to and sticking to a five-day week (59%) are most essential considerations. This may be due to a multitude of reasons: many Hong Kong people have worked endlessly out-of-hours, only to find they are still not appreciated by their employers. Others may want to restrict work to working hours for reasons of health or allowing adequate rest.

Different views on work-life balance

While work-life balance is an ‘over-riding consideration’ among Hong Kongers of late, different generations have their own specific expectations on the drivers of this attraction. When comparing Gen Y (ages 24-34), also known as Millennials, and Gen Z (ages 18-23), a higher proportion of Millennials think a five-day work week and adhering to bank holidays are a must when considering a new job. They also view shift work, which is commonly required in some industries, as a put-off. Despite the small age gap between Gen Y and Gen Z compared to other generations, Gen Y expresses stronger demand for regular working hours and well-defined schedules.

Gen Y, having already been in the workforce for a few years and commencing on plans for their own lives and families, want to enjoy more personal time. This may have something to do with the blurring of lines between work-play-social, wherein smartphones have melded our personal and professional lives into one always-on amalgam. There is also a larger proportion of Gen X (15%) members who have children in the household, indicating that they might want to allocate more time for their families.

When comparing seniority level of workers, juniors have a stronger desire for regular work scheduling, and they do not see working overseas as a job benefit. Senior level staff conversely tend to bear more responsibilities, so it is more common that they are expressly willing to travel often for meetings and commit to a less regular working schedule.

In terms of gender differences, females think work-life balance is of greater importance compared to males. A recent conducted by JCI Bauhinia found that 54% of female workers in Hong Kong spend 9 to 11 hours at work a day, and over 70% say work is the major cause of stress. This resonates with our Laws of Attraction research as it showed a larger proportion of female workers prefer regular work schedules, enabling them to take care of their families in personal time and plan these commitments with ease.

tailor-made strategy matters

While it is not possible for employers to offer regular work scheduling for all employees due to differing job natures, there are other ways for employers to help staff achieve work-life balance.

Hiring managers should be aware of how work-life balance trends differ between employees to ensure reward packages and hours meet candidate expectations of what constitutes work-life balance. Each industry is subject to different expectations, and of course, different working conditions and requirements. Recruiters therefore need a tailor-made hiring strategy which enables them to understand employee needs and solve the work-life balance conundrum.

By recognizing the importance of ‘balance’ to candidates and existing staff, employers can show they are in step with the times, have employee needs figured out in advance, and are focused on providing working scenarios that best benefit their staff as well as their business. This will put firms in great stead in being able to attract the best candidates among those Hong Kong workers who love to work but demand a more rewarding, near-equal balance between working and living.

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