In Hong Kong’s competitive work culture, it can be tempting to believe that extended work hours are essential – not just to stay on top of your work load, but also to get ahead with your career. However, quite the opposite could be true.
Working long hours can see our health and happiness deteriorate, and for many in Hong Kong that’s a day-to-day reality.
A survey by insurer Cigna found Hong Kong residents are some of the most stressed people in the world. Nine out of ten (92%) say they feel under pressure, and work is a leading cause.
Psychologists confirm other dangers of a protracted working week. Long hours at the office can weaken your cognitive abilities, leaving you less creative, less productive and more prone to making errors – outcomes that can be damaging to your career.
This highlights the importance of achieving work-life balance in Hong Kong. And it can be done by taking five straightforward steps.
1. Know what your ideal work-life balance looks like
We each have different ideas about the perfect blend of life and work. What matters, is the work-life mix that’s right for you.
Think about what your ideal work-life balance looks like. You may decide that more flexible working hours are the solution to your work-life balance, or that you’d like to work from home one or two days each week. Whatever the case, you’ll have a starting point for building a healthy balance between your professional and personal life.
2. Take ownership of your work-life balance in Hong Kong
Achieving work-life balance can hinge on prioritising what matters to you so that you can focus on the most important things.
In the workplace for instance, list the tasks you regularly undertake, and consider if any of the less important responsibilities could be delegated to a colleague.
Look at ways to delegate tasks around the home too. Something as simple as organising a regular grocery order to be home-delivered, can free up several hours each week – time that could be spent relaxing with family.
3. Speak to your employer about flexible work arrangements
It can be hard to admit that you are struggling, but speaking out is critical to tackling the issue of work-life imbalance.
The wellbeing of employees is a growing concern for companies as it can impact staff retention rates. Already, over nine out of ten (97%) Hong Kong business leaders have initiatives in place to improve the work-life balance of their team, with flexible working hours and telecommuting being among the most popular.
This makes it worth having conversations with your boss about the options available to you to improve your work-life balance in Hong Kong. You may be surprised at what’s possible.
4. Use technology to work smarter – not just harder
Rather than working longer hours, aim to work smarter. Making good use of technology can help you win back some personal time.
Along with cloud technologies, plenty of tools are available to help you work remotely including DropBox, Google Drive, Skype and Slack. Tools that can support enhanced productivity include Trello, IFTTT, Buffer and Evernote.
On the flipside, be mindful that digital devices can make us continually connected to work. Research shows that Hong Kong professionals often think that being constantly available will help them be seen as hardworking . However, an “always-on” mentality can make it difficult to disengage from work, potentially undoing all the other steps you’ve taken to create a healthy work-life balance. Limit the problem by setting clear boundaries, and allocate times to switch off.
5. Allow time for family, friends – and yourself
When work becomes the number one focus, our personal wellbeing isn’t the only thing that can suffer. The people who matter to us can also experience ill-effects.
In a study by the Hong Kong Institute of Family Education, 48% of respondents agreed that work was affecting their family relationships. Nearly 30% of parents talked with their children for less than 15 minutes each day. One in ten parents didn’t have time to play with their children every day.
If you’re struggling to fit family and leisure activities around work, it could be time to rethink your approach. Just as you’d plan a work meeting, schedule in time for family, friends and even yourself. This way, it’s in the diary and needs your attention.
Switch your laptop off and mute your phone, so that you’re not tempted to dip into work when you should be relaxing. Engaging with others calls for you to be mentally present – not just physically there.
Work-life balance in Hong Kong isn’t a passing trend
Employers globally are recognising that achieving the right balance of work and leisure is essential to build a productive workforce.
Taking steps to improve your Hong Kong work-life balance could help you become a more valued employee, and revitalise your career.