working hours and private time blurring in Asia but Aussie workers still know how to switch off.

02/09/2015 09:19:12

The quarterly study by HR and recruitment specialists Randstad, has found the lines between working hours and private time are blurring in Asia Pacific (APAC) countries, with 65 per cent of workers saying their employer expects them to be available outside regular office hours. This compares to 57 per cent globally and 51 per cent in Australia. The quarterly Randstad Workmonitor & Mobility Index (Wave 2, 2015) which tracks employee confidence and labour market movement, provides a comprehensive understanding of sentiments and trends in the Australian and global job market. 

The latest Wave 2, 2015 report, also explores jobseeker sentiment around working outside of normal hours.

Technology is blurring the line between work and play. The rise of smart devices means employees are rarely separated from work, with emails, apps and the ability to access documents at anytime from anywhere. This puts pressure on employees work-life balance, as employers increasingly expect them to be available during personal hours.

Working Outside of Office Hours
In APAC, 65 per cent of workers are expected to be available outside of office hours, with China (89 per cent) having the highest expectation. This is almost 10 per cent higher than the rest of the world (57 per cent) and almost 15 per cent higher than Aussie workers (51 per cent), which had the second lowest employer expectations behind Japan (46 per cent). 

It comes as no surprise employers are expecting employees to be available around the clock. With technology impacting the way we work, particularly as we move towards a more global workforce, employees increasingly find themselves working outside of the traditional office hours.

It’s important for both employers and employees to strike a balance between work and personal time, as too much work and not enough downtime can have a negative impact, leading to burnout, loss in productivity and a decrease in workplace satisfaction.

Although employer expectations of out of hours (OOH) work in Australia are low, over half of Aussie workers (56 per cent) don’t mind handling work related matters in their personal time. In fact two thirds (67 per cent) of employees are happy to respond to calls and emails at a convenient time. 

The rest of APAC, excluding Japan (35 per cent), are even happier to handle work matters OOH, with 60 per cent willing to work during personal time and 76 per cent choosing to respond at a time convenient to them. Additionally, there is a higher sense of urgency in APAC regarding responding to work-related calls and emails immediately OOH. In APAC, 61 per cent of workers are happy to action items as soon as they receive them, particularly in India (82 per cent). In contrast, only 56 per cent of global workers and 49 per cent of Aussie workers would respond immediately.

However, reacting immediately may not necessarily be the best way to stay on top of workloads. It is essential that employers do not take employees’ inclination to work during their personal time for granted. Rather than overworking their employees, employers should prioritise rewarding those that take the extra step and make certain they are capable of having a healthy work/life balance. Employers could foster this by offering various benefits such as time off in lieu or extended lunch breaks to avoid over working.

Conversely, from the perspective of an employee, responding at a convenient time rather than immediately even if they are offline, demonstrates commitment as well as the ability to take advantage of well-earned downtime and balance their work and personal life. However, when working with their APAC colleagues, it will be beneficial to understand the way in which they work and the pressures they face. This will help to solidify those relations, especially if expectations are established early.

In addition to finding out how much work is impacting employees’ personal time, the Randstad Workmonitor report also investigates whether the opposite is true. The results show a clear correlation between expectations to work OOH and whether employees resolve personal matters at work. The higher the expectations are to work OOH, the more likely employees will address personal matters at work. Overall 71 per cent of workers in APAC say they sometimes deal with personal matters during work. This drops to 64 per cent globally, as expectations to work outside of office hours are lower.

However, both Australia and New Zealand buck this trend. With both nations having low employer expectations for employees to work OOH, the majority of employees should not be bringing personal matters into work. Yet, 71 per cent of employees do sometimes address personal matters at work.

Working on Holiday
Holidays are considered precious by most, as it is a time to relax, unwind, refresh and re-energise by clearing the mind of work-related matters for a well deserved break. However, 58 per cent of employees in APAC say their employer expects them to be available by phone and email during holidays, with China again being the highest (81 per cent). 

The same expectations and pressures can’t be said of Aussie workers, with only 41 per cent saying their employer expects them to be available during their holidays. Although this is better than APAC and even the rest of the world (58 per cent and 47 per cent respectively), employers still need to understand this expectation defeats the purpose of using this valuable time to recharge your batteries.

Although expectations around working on holiday are increasing, it is important employees keep this time for themselves. The number of days we all have for holidays are limited. People must ensure these days are used to separate themselves from work, to clear their mind and unwind.