Apr 5, 2012

Less stress please: Why work-life balance is now a hot commodity for Chinese financial professionals

Work-life balance as a staff retention tool is gaining traction this year as the pressure on financial-sector employees in China mounts. In 2011 there were several cases of highly-stressed young professionals who died from overwork.

Thanks to those incidents, candidates have become increasingly aware of the importance of a balanced life and have listed this in their criteria for a job.

In China those aged between 26 and 35 face the most pressure. Professionals in this group are generally paid the lowest and have tight schedules, having to juggle work and family commitments. Recruiters say striking a balance between your work and your personal life is a crucial factor which can boost employee loyalty and retention rates, especially for those in junior- to mid-level jobs.

Working in banking and finance can be a stressful environment. For example, an employee in a credit department of a large Chinese bank told eFinancialCareers that always having to hunt for new clients makes him feel under too much pressure. Employers should therefore be more responsive to the diversity of staff needs.

Jered Hol, director and head of human resources at Deutsche Bank China, says work-life balance is part of employer branding and an essential component of the overall package offered to staff. It helps to assist in attracting and retaining the best talent.

Foreign banks had led the way in providing work-life balance initiatives. Firms from Europe, US, and Australia tend to be early adopters of practises like flexible work arrangements, working from home and parental leave.

Good communication between employees and their managers and peers also assist work-life balance. Sophie Xu, consultant, Alue China, says newly promoted managers often lack the skills to manage their increased workload and responsibilities. The failure to communicate with senior managers and subordinates is another cause for anxiety at work. And because employees often leave because of their managers, not the organisation, leaders need to support work-life balance for their staff in order to boost performance as well as loyalty.