Asia Taking Steps Towards Work and Life Balance

From a horrible boss, to being overworked and underappreciated, the reasons for a less than pleasant work experience are endless. In Asia, where the competition is high, work can often times become overwhelming, with many employees working long after hours at the office.

So what are the consequences of long working hours? In Hong Kong, according to governmental figures people work an average of 75 hours a week, with 92% of people saying that they faced stress in their daily lives. The number is even higher for millennials in Hong Kong with 95% of people between the ages of 18 to 34 reporting stress. Of these people, 26% indicated that the stress they were facing was at a unmanageable level, all of which are higher than the global stress level.

Unfortunately, the problem of overworked employees does not end with stress. In a previous article, we talked about the problem of Karoshi, a Japanese word vaguely translating to “death caused by overwork or job-related exhaustion”.  This is not only a problem witnessed in Japan, but also in Korea, as an article published earlier this month by CNN shares the story of Chae Soo-hong, a diligent employee who passed away due to over exhaustion at work.

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Asia Finally Looking to Manage Overtime Work and Stress

In Asia, where there is a strong culture of duty to perform well at work, it is not uncommon to find people working over hours in order to meet the rising demands of their job. However, with recent incidents of Karoshi and tragedies due to overtime work and exhaustion, there has been a shift in priorities at the workplace across Asia.

Earlier this year in June, Japanese legislation passed for a cap on overtime work, an attempt to limit the total number of hours spent at work. This effort aimed at improving the working standards by promoting better work-life balance is also been seen in Korea.  Put into force in July 2018, Korea are limiting companies with over 300 employees to work over the 52-hour work week.

These updates in work legislation marks a big step for Asia, which had previously been laxed in their approach towards maximum working hours. Where previously the culture was for employees to put in extra hours to meet deadlines, new legislation now protects that. Seeing how this is a major change in tradition,  in Korea for example, they have given companies a grace period between the beginning of July till the end of 2018 allowing companies to properly adhere to the new legislation, with official enforcement of the 52-hour work week in January of 2019.

Asia HR Trend: Building the Foundations with Health and Wellness

The transforming culture for better health and wellness within Asia has brought about an advantage for the economy at large as the effects of the maximum work hours legislation ripples into the local employment. Announced in August by Korea’s Ministry of Labor, the newly implemented restriction on the maximum working hours created 43,000 jobs, not only benefiting people who were already employed but also those who had been unemployed.

With the rise of atypical work and the pursuit of greater work-life balance and overall health and wellness across Asia, we’re already seeing countries put greater effort into protecting the well-being of employees. In the turn of 2019, HR professionals will be pressed to cater to these demands as health and wellness becomes an essential part of everyday work.

Some organisations has already started leading the movement, raising awareness and care for employee’s well-being at the workplace. Corporations like AIA with it’s Vitality program has successfully appealed to people externally and internally, engaging with their employees through health and wellness initiatives. As the concerns for health & wellness at the workplace become more mainstream, companies will be pressed to deliver.

With the movement across Asia for greater work-life balance, the time is now for HR professionals to think above and beyond the traditional boundaries/ responsibilities of TA, admin,and payroll, and instead start engaging employees by looking after their well-being at the workplace.

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