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.
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 traditional office hours,” says Steve Shepherd, Employment Market Analyst at Randstad.
“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 burnouts, 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.
Randstad’s Steve Shepherd believes reacting immediately is not necessarily the best way to keep on top of workloads.
“It’s important employers do not take employees willingness to work during their personal time for granted and work them into the ground. Employers should look to reward those that go the extra mile and ensure they are able to manage their work life balance. Employers could offer benefits such as extended lunch breaks or time off in lieu to protect their employees from over working,” says Shepherd.
“From an employee’s perspective, it’s positive Aussie workers are not getting into the habit of responding immediately when they should be offline, as this will only raise expectations that they are available 24/7. By responding at a convenient time, it shows commitment but also allows employees to enjoy their well-earned downtime and manage their workloads accordingly. 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 set early on.”
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,” says Shepherd.
“Employers should not put pressure on employees to remain connected during their holidays. Not only will this impact the time workers have to recharge, but it could also cause resentment and have a negative impact on employee satisfaction.”
However, 39 per cent of Aussie workers say they like to handle work-related matters on holiday, as they want to stay involved whilst they are away. This rises to 46 per cent in APAC, with India being significantly higher than any other country – 75 per cent.
“As much as some Aussie workers want to stay involved, holidays are an opportunity to let go of tasks. It’s not just for their sake either. When employees take leave, it presents an opportunity for other members of the team to work on tasks they may not have had the chance to previously, providing them with vital experience. Additionally, by switching off entirely, employees can show how important they are to the team. As they say, ‘you don’t know what you have until it’s gone’.”
“Expecting employees to work out of office hours could lead to businesses losing their best talent, seeing a higher turnover of staff as well as a decrease in morale, productivity and staff engagement. In the long run, unreasonable expectations of working OOH will cost your business more than hiring an additional employee (on a temporary or permanent basis) to cover the additional workload. This solution will also see employee satisfaction increase and provide an opportunity to upskill an employee into a managerial role,” concludes Shepherd.
Jobseeker Sentiment: Quarterly Mobility Index
Randstad Mobility Index moves down to 107
The Randstad Mobility Index for Q2, 2015 tracks the likelihood of employees expecting to change jobs within the next six months, and for Q2 it has moved down to 107 again. The long-term trend shows the index moves more or less sideways in Australia, with a tendency to slightly increase over time. In fact, Australia’s mobility rate has averaged out at 107 for the last two years.
Actual job change up to 25%
The number of employees in Australia who actually changed jobs in the last six months was 25% (compared to 23% last quarter). Northern Territory was the most active, with a 34% increase on Q1. Victoria was the only state that saw a decline in actual job change, which decreased by 4 per cent in Q2 to 22 per cent, making it the state with the lowest job change in the country.
The appetite to change jobs (applying and actively looking) moved 2 per cent in Q2 to 32 per cent. The Northern Territory again saw the biggest increase, with 69 per cent either applying or looking for a new job. The only other state that saw an increase was Queensland, which increased by 3 percentage points to 37 per cent. The state which saw the biggest decrease in appetite to change jobs was South Australia, which decreased by 13 percentage points to 19 per cent.
Job satisfaction: no major shifts
Job satisfaction increased slightly in Australia, from 67 per cent to 70 per cent. Northern Territory had the biggest increase, with 65 per cent of its workforce satisfied in their roles. South Australia remains the most satisfied state (77 per cent), even though it saw a 2 per cent decrease. Western Australia remains one of the least satisfied states (64 per cent), even though it saw a 9 per cent increase in satisfaction.