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Too much work, too little time

Published on
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Written by
Daleena Samara [1]

Would quality time with the family make Jack more productive at work? A study has found that Hong Kong employees, known for their work ethics, may be working a little too hard. They are getting home too tired to enjoy their loved ones, and feel they would work far better if they could have a little more fun at home.

The survey of 1,002 full-time employees aged 18 and above was conducted by telephone in November 2010 and the results were released in March 2011. Respondents were married, single, or divorced, Hong Kong residents holding administrative or professional positions, clerical jobs, or worker jobs. They were questioned on the total number of hours spent at work and at home in the past seven days.

According to the survey, not everyone was working long hours; 59.2 per cent of respondents worked 10 or fewer hours, 32.5 per cent worked between 10 and 13 hours, while 7.4 per cent worked 14 or more hours. Respondents holding administrative and professional jobs worked the longest hours, and respondents in the worker group worked the shortest," says Ms Lau Yuk-king, Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies (HKIAPS) researcher, and assistant professor at the Department of Social Work of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Nevertheless, work pressure seemed to have gotten to them. Questions probing the impact of their work role on their family role revealed that work was dampening family time. A good 57.7 per cent of respondents said they came home from work too tired to do some of the things they would like to do. When asked whether work took up time they would like to spend with family, 50.5 per cent agreed.

The incidence of work conflicting with family was more serious for employees with low family incomes, than for those with high family incomes.

The former also felt it was less likely that a positive work role would smoothen their family role. Further studies are needed to determine the reasons for the difference, says Lau.

Women who were married or had children experienced more work-family conflicts than their male counterparts. Their mental health was also less satisfactory than that of their male counterparts, although their family roles remained similar to that of men.

Despite the increased participation of women in the labour force, they continue to shoulder the major responsibility for taking care of the family and doing housework, Lau says.

The study found that feeling good at work benefits the family. Sixty-five percent of respondents agreed that returning home from work in a good mood had a positive impact on their family role.

And quality time at home lightened up the mood at work, with 61.9 per cent agreeing that spending quality time with family improved their attitude towards work, and 67.8 per cent affirming that good times at home translated to arriving at work in good spirits, which in turn had a positive impact on workers.

The concerns raised by the HKIAPS survey confirmed that of a 2008 Hong Kong University study of 1,027 Hong Kong employees. It revealed a general improvement in work-life balance in Hong Kong since 2004, when the economy was in a crunch and employees worked a lot harder and longer.

The survey showed that employees were working five hours less a week in 2008 than in 2004, and there had been a significant reduction in regular overtime and late work. But despite the shorter working hours, most respondents felt they had too much work to do, which detracted from their personal time. Although more respondents were happy with their jobs, many were unhappy about the amount of time left over to spend with family and friends.

Family-friendly work policies should be formulated to minimize work-family conflict and create an environment conducive to growth, Lau says.

Survey results

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