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Majority of professionals working overtime, but work-life balance improving: survey

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While a majority of professionals in Singapore continue to work longer than their contracted hours, the situation has eased compared to 2014's survey results, according to the Working Hours Survey from services recruiter Morgan McKinley.

WHILE a majority of professionals in Singapore continue to work longer than their contracted hours, the situation has eased compared to 2014's survey results, according to the Working Hours Survey from services recruiter Morgan McKinley.

Nearly half of the respondents surveyed said their employer offered home-office working as an option, while two-thirds said they could exercise discretion on start and finish times, and more than a third said they could take time off in lieu of extra hours worked.

Andrew Evans, managing director, Morgan McKinley Singapore, said: "Singapore-based professionals are among the hardest working in the world and when we conducted the 2014 survey it seemed that the strain was becoming intolerable for many.

"While there is still progress that needs to be made, it appears that many organisations have taken on board the Ministry of Manpower's message that a work-life friendly workplace is a win-win situation for both employers and employees."

Technological change has also played a part in blurring the distinction between office, home and travel. The survey found that 75 per cent of the nearly 1,000 respondents work remotely at least on occasion, with 15 per cent also working remotely at weekends. However, some 40 per cent of employers do not allow employees to work remotely at their own discretion or even occasionally. Only 10 per cent allow it as a matter of company policy.

The geographical location of Singapore is also a factor in longer working hours. Professionals working for multinational companies with offices in the United States or Europe were often expected by their employers to attend tele-meetings or conference calls at unsociable hours. Where this is the case, employees are often able to work remotely.

Said Mr Evans: "With Generation Y and even some Generation Z entering the workforce we strongly believe that more flexible working arrangements will play an even greater role in attracting and retaining the most talented and dedicated professionals. Employers will need to work closely with employees to uncover what financial and non-financial factors are important to them."

Nevertheless it is not all good news; 12 per cent of professionals said they contracted to work more than 46 hours when the legal limit is set at 44 hours according to the Ministry of Manpower.

Separately, 35 per cent of the respondents stated that long working hours were having a significant impact and required them to make sacrifices in terms of their personal and family life.

According to the survey, roughly two-thirds of the respondents feel obliged to work longer than their contracted hours. However, this was 10 per cent less than in the 2014 survey.

Around 80 per cent of the people who said they work beyond their contracted hours feel more productive during this time. Nearly 90 per cent of them are not paid for this overtime, however.