Saturday, April 16, 2011 HK bosses toughest in Asia-Pacific

HK bosses toughest in Asia-Pacific

Lana Lam
Updated on Apr 17, 2011

Hong Kong bosses are the toughest in the region and expect staff to work during their holidays, a study has found.

A survey of more than 1,600 professionals in the finance, accounting and human resources sectors across the Asia-Pacific region found that 68 per cent of employers in the city expect their staff to be available while on annual leave or after work hours.

In Singapore, 45 per cent of bosses expected their staff to work during their holidays, while in Australia it was 22 per cent and in New Zealand, 20 per cent. The regional average was 40 per cent.

The results of the Robert Half workplace survey, which included 410 participants from Hong Kong, comes amid debate on the implications of a minimum wage in Hong Kong with discussions on compensation for meal breaks, overtime and annual leave.

Andrew Morris, managing director greater China for recruiter Robert Half International, said cultural differences were a key factor in the range of figures.

"Hong Kong's work ethic is intense. To avoid burnout and maintain morale, bosses must make it a priority to give their staff a break," he said.

However, he pointed out that Hong Kong employees were also to blame because they chose to stay in contact with their workplace while away from it, with 77 per cent saying they did so, compared to the regional average of 66 per cent.

Finance professionals in Hong Kong said they felt they had to stay connected in case there was an emergency, but also because they could keep in touch through technology. Some said they just could not switch off.

"While technology can keep us connected 24/7, employers should resist the temptation to phone or e-mail employees outside of work hours unless it's truly urgent," Morris said.

Hong Kong bosses expected the most from middle managers, the survey found, with 76 per cent saying middle managers should be available all the time, compared to 47 per cent for senior managers or directors and 23 per cent for junior or entry-level staff.

"This trend is unhealthy in both the short and long term. An employee that is under a great stress or one that seems to be experiencing burnout can easily create a toxic environment."

Morris said employers must respect workers' need to properly unplug or risk workplace problems.

"Employee burnout in the short term can reduce productivity, decrease morale and increase both absenteeism and presenteeism," he said.

The latter occurs when a sick employee still comes to work.

A positive result for Hong Kong employees was that if they did work during their holidays or outside office hours, most were compensated.

Just 16 per cent of employers said they did not make up lost time through either pay or time in lieu, well below the regional average of 33 per cent.

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