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In our 2021 Randstad Hong Kong Employer Brand Research, 60% of employees said that their ideal employer should support good work-life balance, after ‘attractive salary & benefits’ which is ranked first at 62%. 

Work-life balance ranked second as the most important employee value proposition (EVP) in Hong Kong SAR. However, the average employer in Hong Kong SAR received a relatively low rating on this driver, citing a poor perception from the working population on their employer’s efforts in promoting work-life integration initiatives. 

This begs more questions. Is it true that employers are not doing enough? Are candidates asking for too much? Has the concept of ‘work-life harmony’  changed over the years? 

To address these questions, we must first understand how different generations and employees view work and life balance. 

what is work-life balance?

Work-life balance is the integration between personal life and career work. It does not necessarily mean a 50-50 split between work and everything else. But rather, how would life integrate with work and vice versa. 

Every employee has a different personal perception of how a work-life blend would look like to them. A working parent would like to have flexi-work hours so that they can play a more active role in their child’s development journey. A career champion would not mind putting in more working hours than what’s stated in their employment contract as long as their contributions are fairly recognised and rewarded. 

work-life balance importance
work-life balance importance

The Randstad Hong Kong’s 2021 Employer Brand Report highlighted that younger workers — Gen-Z and Millennial (also known as Gen Y) — respondents ranked ‘good work-life balance’ as the top EVP factor that they look for in an ideal employer, above ‘attractive salary and employee benefits’.

why do gen-z and millennial workers seek better work-life balance support? 

Gen-Zers and Millennials have a different view of the world. Having grown up in the internet era, young workers are challenging the concept of traditional workplaces. These digital natives have adopted an always-on work mentality - one that usually blurs the boundaries between work and life.

They are completely comfortable with replying to emails and attending conference calls while on-the-go. This is perhaps why they don’t want to be bogged down by the standard 9 to 6 work schedule and tend to have a stronger desire to work remotely and flexibly. 

Younger people also value social connections that go beyond their family and friends. They want new opportunities to collaborate with colleagues across the organisation and subject matter experts in their industries, as they get to expand their network and learn more from each other.

why can’t we achieve work-life balance?

Asian businesses are plagued by one major HR issue - presenteeism. The majority of the working population in Hong Kong believes that they have to be within sight of their colleagues to show that they are working. 

Prior to COVID-19, many employees showed up to the offices even when they were sick and we’ve also seen people walking miles to Hong Kong Island during typhoon season to work. 

The younger generations also feel that their career success lies in the hands of Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers who have a non-spoken expectation of presenteeism, which further exacerbates stress levels at work. 

The 2021 Employer Brand Research sheds some light on this issue. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic when staying home is proven to be statistically successful in keeping cases low, only 13% of all respondents worked exclusively from home. The red flag in our research is that 5% of respondents said that they are able to work remotely but their employers don’t allow them to do so. 

This signals a necessary mindset shift among Hongkongers to set a better work culture. When employees are enabled with digital tools, they can basically work from anywhere - home, cafes, restaurants and even during commute. It is only fair at this point that as employers, we support our workforce by giving them the flexibility to do what works best for them, and not judge their employees’ performance or competencies based on whether they show up in the office. 

what can HR leaders do to meet the expectations of gen-Zers and millennials?

Even though there is no one-size-fits all due to the complexity of your business and industry, there is still a broad framework that HR leaders can follow to ensure a healthy work-life balance for all employees and the new age workforce. 

how to engage with younger generations in the workplace
how to engage with younger generations in the workplace

1. assess your digital investments and transformation roadmap

It isn’t realistic to move your entire workforce to remote working overnight. Most of the time, it’s done in phases and led by a transformation team. 

This change usually starts with employees in corporate and support functions who only need a laptop to access cloud drives and work emails, before working its way to employees in commercial or physically-demanding roles. As you introduce it to more teams, you’ll learn about new challenges. 

Resolve all the challenges as much as possible before moving on to the next phase so that you’ll be able to roll out the new way of work quickly without anyone feeling left out. 

2. update your HR policies

Commit to your remote work promises by penning it down in black-and-white in your HR policy and employee handbook. 

Having an official written HR policy not only helps employees create and follow a new work structure, it also eases their mental stress. They no longer need to feel guilty or judged when they choose to work from home. As long as they remain equally (or more) productive at home, managers have fewer reasons to ask them to work from the office. 

If done correctly, this can initiate a positive mindset shift among the employees and you’ll see more workers choosing to experiment and enjoying the new flexibility. Besides having higher job satisfaction, they are also more likely to proudly share their employee experiences with their friends and family, which further improves your employer brand. 

3. create an organisation-focussed communications network

Being productive while working remotely requires regular and effective communication. This doesn’t mean back-to-back Zoom meetings. Rather, it means that employees have adequate channels to update and report their work progress, ask for feedback and stay connected with the business. 

Having a centralised and collaborative internal communication platform like an highly-integrated intranet could be the solution if you’re a large company. Line managers should also reserve enterprise platforms like Google Chats and Microsoft Teams for work instead of using personal social networks like Telegram or Whatsapp to communicate to their staff. Help your employees achieve better work-life integration by drawing that line for them. 

mindset shift is key to employees’ work-life balance

The most important advice of all is to drive a mindset change in the organisation. We will never know the real reasons why some people are more productive at home while others seem to be more focussed in the office.

This is why it is so important to let go of the control and allow your employees to choose for themselves. As HR leaders, our job is to offer better support to our employees and trust that they are professional enough to put in their best every day, regardless of where they are working from. So unless someone isn’t meeting targets or is constantly late to meetings, there is really no good reason for us to force everyone to work in the office. 

We have this rich opportunity to reimagine the world of work and if not now, then when?

work with hong kong’s most attractive employers

As recruitment specialists, we have first-hand knowledge of the companies in every industry that offer robust work-life fit initiatives like hybrid work arrangements to work-from-home allowances. If you feel overwhelmed at work and have an overbearing boss who can’t stop messaging you on Whatsapp even after working hours, let us help you find a new employer. 

To have a successful career, you need to discover your career opportunities and start by exploring our latest jobs. You can also simply let us know your career aspirations and we’ll notify you once an opportunity is available for you. 

randstad blue suite

The Randstad Blue Suite is a collection of personal insights from the Randstad leadership team.

leadership insights in hong kong
leadership insights in hong kong
about the author

natellie sun

managing director - search and selection, randstad greater china

Natellie spearheads the Search & Selection across eight offices in the Greater China region, including Hong Kong SAR. She leads a multi-disciplinary team of highly-specialised and experienced recruitment consultants and drives Randstad’s HR technology agenda and innovation in the region.