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Monday, 14 November 2011

Over-work and the generation gap

M'sians working more and carrying home more work

Monday Starters - By Soo Ewe Jin

ACCORDING to a global survey by Regus, Malaysians are not only clocking more hours at work but bringing their office load back home as well.

I can already see many of you, especially young workers in consultancy firms, nodding your heads in agreement. And today is only Monday.

The article on the survey findings, written by my colleague Yuen Mei Keng and published in this newspaper last Wednesday, was aptly headlined “Malaysians too hardworking”.Regus Logo

Regus is the world’s largest provider of workplace solutions so it obviously has the credentials to carry out the survey which involved some 12,000 business people in 85 countries.

The findings of interest to us – 47% of Malaysian workers take tasks home to finish at the end of the day for more than three times a week, compared to 43% globally; 15% regularly work for more than 11 hours a day, compared with 10% globally.

William Willems, regional vice-president for Regus Australia, New Zealand and South-East Asia, says the study found “a clear blurring” of the line separating work and home.

File picture shows Mohd Rasul (centre), who is handicapped from birth, showing his skill working with computer using his toes. The computer was donated by superstar Anita Sarawak. Looking on were Hamidah (right) and Mohd Ramli (left). - Starpic by ROSHIDI ABU SAMAH.
“The long-term effects of such over-work could be damaging to both workers’ health and overall productivity.

“This is because workers may drive themselves too hard and become disaffected, depressed and even physically ill.”

Sounds rather ominous but I doubt if anyone is going to lobby the Government for policy changes so that people don’t work so hard.

After all, many are fighting to raise the retirement age in the private sector to 60, the same as that in the Government sector.

The Regus report should be seen in the right perspective of how different generations view work because of different circumstances.

Our problem has always been that the earlier generations control the workplace environment and are not as sympathetic about the realities of today.

I must confess that when young people seek my advice, I still cannot resist telling them that I started on a salary of RM135 and had to work, for many years, on the graveyard shift. Although I feel they need to experience pain before pleasure and appreciate the value of hard work, it often does not come across like that from their perspective.

They probably see me as the old foggie who did not have any form of social life back then, so spending all my waking hours in the office was the only thing to do.

But we need to understand that the world has changed so much from the time of the baby boomers to the current Generation Y.

Advances in technology, which allow the workforce to stay connected without being together physically, may, in some industries, make even the standard 9 to 5 routine in the office outdated.

Being hardworking is a positive trait for all good workers but if we are working too hard, and chalking unnecessary extra hours that cause severe strain on our home life, then maybe something is not right.

I am glad that we are beginning to see many enlightened bosses who value a proper work-life balance for their workers but they are still in the minority.

I have a dear friend who works in a rather high position in a multinational who told me that whenever she was at headquarters in Europe, she is reminded that no one is allowed to work beyond office hours unless a written request is submitted.

“They shut down the office after 5 so you had better have a strong case to want the lights and air-conditioner on,” she said.

No wonder she is so happy that she has been posted to headquarters permanently.

Her Facebook sharing is full of her travel stories and picnics in the park that I sometimes wonder if she is even working at all.

Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin will remember 11.11.11 as the day he missed a most meaningful reunion in Penang of Old Frees from his year who came from near and far to catch up with one another.

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