Will the five-day week improve the work-life balance of Hongkongers?


Spotted in this morning's unlinkable SCMP:

Will the five-day week improve the work-life balance of Hongkongers?

I don't think so, because many Hong Kong people still have a mindset that performance depends on working time only but not ability and effort. In order to avoid layoffs, employees must work much longer on weekdays and they sometimes go back to work in the office on weekends.

I work in a company where employees sit for over 12 hours but just check their private e-mails and websites. Luckily, their employer thinks they perform well because at least they are hard working. How can we have an improved work-life balance in a five-day week? We should change the mindset about working attitudes to achieve a work-life balance.

Derek Chan, Ho Man Tin

I've often wondered about the reputation that Hong Kongers have for working hard. My own experience doesn't really reflect that. Although there are many exceptions, in my experience, most Hong Kongers think that "working hard" means "working long hours", most of which are spent forwarding emails[1], yakking on the phone, or just plain surfing the web.

It all basically stems from a big problem with the Confucian philosophy which underpins much of Chinese life. Staff are expected to be available whenever the Emperor (or boss) wants them, and so remain at their desks until 8 or 9PM (or until the boss leaves). Often, they're not actually doing anything, just being "ready". A certain kind of Chinese boss regards this as his due and will often complain about anyone leaving the office before he does. Of course, he'll still only reward making money for the company (actual effectiveness), but he'll punish perceived slacking (i.e. leaving before 8pm).

What ends up happening is that all the effective staff either get promoted to be bosses themselves or they (rightly!) regard working for that type of boss as a sucker's game and go elsewhere. In this way, the boss is rewarded with the sight of his increasingly ineffective staff staying later and later and accomplishing less and less. He often can't understand why things aren't getting done, despite his staff being there all the time.

This type of boss is often a product of such a workplace himself, having arrived at the top by being the least effective or least offensive of a sorry bunch.

[1] "You'll have good fortune if you send this to five people!!!1!1!eleventy-one!!!!"[2]

[2] Funnily enough, they often don't appreciate getting those emails back 500 times...

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This page contains a single entry by dave published on July 6, 2006 9:57 AM.

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