Hong Kong employees reluctant to return to the office

Photo by Patricia Lazaro

Employees in Hong Kong remain more reluctant to return to the office than in any other country, with mandates and heavy workload impacting employee wellbeing. That is according to a study by Unispace.

Returning for Good, a Unispace Global Workplace Insights report – which combined the results of an in-depth survey of 9,500 employees and 6,650 business leaders from across 17 countries worldwide – including 500+ Hong Kong employees and 100+ senior decision makers from mid-large sized companies  in Hong Kong – found that 60% of workers are reluctant to head into the office.

With this largely driven by employer mandates, nearly 95% believe they will be asked to attend their workplace at least four days a week in the coming months.

According to the data, employees in Hong Kong are in the office more than the global average, with 63% of workers currently in the workplace four or more days a week, compared to 50% worldwide and 40% in Singapore.

Burnout going unnoticed

According to the report, workers across Hong Kong are being impacted by burnout, but employers are failing to recognize the factors impacting their wellbeing. The majority (64%) of workers revealed they had experienced signs of burnout, the same as the UK, one of the most popular destinations for Hong Kong workers.

Heavy workloads influenced this, according to 45% of Hong Kong people. However, just 29% of Hong Kong employers believed this to be an issue, suggesting firms are failing to spot the signs of burnout in workforces.

More privacy office setting for higher productivity

Meanwhile, the data revealed that the lack of privacy (29%) and more effective to work from home (26%) are two key factors causing more than half (60%) of employees reluctant to return back to the office. However, this goes opposite to the employers’ perspective, with businesses viewing the unwillingness of travel (21%) and carrying their work equipment between the office and home (20%) as the two key barriers for employees to come to the office daily.

The data also reveals that 59% of the respondents who are currently hot desking prefer to have their own space. Of those who are currently hot-desking, 95% would be more willing to return to the workplace more frequently if they have their own space.

Comparing with UK, among 56% of the respondents who are currently hot desking, only 76% would be more willing to return to the workplace more frequently if they have their own space. It shows that Hong Kong employees prefer traditional workplace settings comparing with flexible workplace settings.

In Hong Kong, 82% of firms revealed that they had already expanded their space in the last two years, while a further 74% plan to do so by 2025. This indicates that businesses are responding to their employees’ preferences for an ideal workplace and are subtly encouraging them to come back to the office.

Sean Moran, Senior Principal, Client Solutions, Asia at Unispace, commented: “As a world-class financial centre, Hong Kong is ranked as one of the most overworked cities in the world. Our study indicates that the significant disconnect between employer and employee has contributed to the struggling working environment and culture in Hong Kong. 

“Hong Kong businesses need to understand the concerns and struggles of their staff, from work arrangement and office productivity to burnout. We see the need to build an encouraging workplace aligned with their employees’ needs and values as a platform to promote positive influence and culture.

“Fostering a better relationship with their employees, businesses can drive higher talent retention and attract high-quality talent, the stepping stone to the company’s success. “