Why Are SG, HK, and South Korea Employees So Unhappy?

Image credit: iStockphoto/maroke

Extreme working cultures and long working hours in APAC disrupt the work-life balance and cause employee burnout. Instant Offices, the world’s largest office advisory service and workspace provider, conducted a study to identify the relationship between work hours and annual leave to the proportion of happiness in 10 APAC countries. 

The study reveals that Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea have the most unhappy employees. Seven out of 10 Singaporeans are dispirited at work while working 45 hours a week. Meanwhile, 72% of Hong Kongers expressed that they are disheartened at work. And despite having the second-lowest working hours (38 hours) per week and ranking second on average annual leaves, one out of five South Koreans declared they are unhappy.  

On the flip side, half of Australia, India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam employees are the happiest with their work arrangements. 

Adopting a 4-day work week

According to the study, the APAC region can learn from European countries in dealing with overwork culture. European countries have started experimenting and implementing rules and programs that reduce work hours for employees.

Iceland was a pioneer in experimenting with lowering the traditional 40-hour workweek to 35 or 36 without pay cuts between 2015 to 2019. In February this year, Belgium announced that its workforce could decide to work for four days a week, condensing the working hours into fewer days. 

"The goal is to give people and companies more freedom to arrange their work time. If you compare our country with others, you’ll often see we’re far less dynamic,” said Prime Minister Alexander de Croo of Belgium. 

In addition, the U.K. launched a 6-month trial program following a 100:80:100 model on June 6. Employees are expected to receive 100% of their pay for working 80% of the time and maintain 100% productivity at work. 

Response to overworked culture

Happy employees are more productive at work by at least 12%, according to a recent study by the University of Warwick. Instant Offices said that companies, managers, and employees could work together to combat the overworking culture and recommended several actionable steps:

  • Spot if employees have signs of work burnout and overworking

  • Establish a culture of work disconnection after working hours and weekends

  • Provide open and safe discussions on work-life balance

  • Provide flexible and agile working options to employees

​Image credit: iStockphoto/maroke