Work life balance is voted the most important employee value proposition for the first time in 10 years of research in Hong Kong, said Randstad recently when releasing results of a survey.
Attractive salary and benefits’ dipped two percent from 2021 to 60.2%, while work life balance is important to 60.4% of the respondents, the firm noted.
The online survey was conducted in January 2022 with more than 3,000 respondents in Hong Kong, according to the firm.
After two years of COVID, Hongkongers are starting to feel the ‘lock-in’ syndrome, in which they go through the motions without anything like a vacation or meaningful break to look forward to, said Benjamin Elms, Regional Director at Randstad Hong Kong.
Many have devoted their free time to work to fill the void while some employers may erroneously mistake their overworking with productivity and pile more work on them,” he added.
“This not only results in increased stress levels, but it negatively affects their physical health,” Elms noted.
Women in Hong Kong have higher expectations from employers than men
In the survey, 65% of women voted ‘work-life balance’ as the top employee value proposition factor they look for in an ideal employer.
However, only 55% of men shared the same sentiment, survey results indicate.
Gender inequality is the key reason why female workers have higher expectations from their employers, Elms observed.
With unresolved issues such as maternity penalty, gender pay gap and glass ceilings, women professionals seek support from their employers to create an environment that is safe and inclusive for them to work in so that they can get equal access to career growth opportunities, he said.
Companies that offer flexible work arrangements and childcare benefits as well as job sharing and contract work would appeal to female workers, who comprise an untapped talent pool, he added.
Hongkongers have taken actions on their own to attain better work life balance
With work life balance being the most important to respondents in Hong Kong , it should come with no surprise that 85% of respondents have taken actions to improve their own situation, Randstad said.
One in three (32%) respondents said that they worked fewer overtime hours and 29% decided to work flexible hours, survey results indicate.
Time is very important to employees, especially Gen-Zers and Millennials, said Elms, adding that these younger generations of workers don’t want to live in the shadow of their work.
“They want to have enough time to do the activities that they enjoy, such as exercising, going on a date or having a meal with their friends to keep their minds off work,” he noted.
Number of remote workers drops significantly
Only 32% of respondents worked remotely in 2022, having dropped significantly from the 62% in Juan 2021, according to the survey.
In addition, 41%of respondents said that they work only on the employer’s premise, a 21% increase from the year before.
Of those who were working remotely, 80% said that they expect to work in a hybrid model after the pandemic, where they will be working between home and on-site.
While most Hongkongers live in small apartments that don’t have enough space for a proper desk set-up, that doesn’t mean that they want to be in the office all the time either, Elms pointed out.
“Most employees would still prefer the option to work remotely from a cafe or restaurant near their homes for a breath of fresh air, to avoid peak hour crowds, or just to be away from the hustle and bustle in the office or at home,” he said.
When employees work remotely, they get to observe how other people live their lives and connect with people whom they usually don’t have the opportunity to when they are in an office environment, he added.
“Exposing employees to different environments helps them gain different perspectives to think critically and creatively, which will change the way they approach work in a more positive and meaningful way,” Elms advised.
Most importantly, giving employees the autonomy to decide when and where they want to work helps improve their time management skills and builds their loyalty to employers, he added.
Fair compensation helps improve work life balance
Despite the earlier analysis about flexible working, the top benefit that would help Hongkongers maintain a good work-life balance is fair compensation (41%), followed by healthcare benefits (37%), according to Randstad.
“While this data may stand out from our earlier analysis about the importance of flexible work, it goes to show that Hongkongers want to have a positive and more holistic employee experience with employers,” Elms noted.
While salary is always going to be at the back of our minds, higher salaries — as a hygiene factor —may not necessarily drive higher motivation, he said.
“However, salaries that are perceived to be lower than the market average will definitely result in greater job dissatisfaction, Elms pointed out. “Nobody likes to know that they are being paid less or feel that their salaries do not reflect their evolving work responsibilities.”
When workers feel like they are underpaid, they will start to develop negative thoughts and feelings towards their employers, which would encourage them to seek another company that offers greater pay transparency, he added.