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Experts urge better work-life balance in offices

By Cheng Si | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-01-11 09:53

Employment and legal experts have suggested business owners come up with better ways to motivate staff members and improve their efficiency at work.

In late November, the leaking of an in-house notice issued by electronic device retailer Gome Holdings Group sparked controversy online. Issued after an analysis of the company's network traffic, it accused 11 employees of loafing on the job by listening to music, watching short videos and shopping online.

Zhang Chuanshi, director of Gome's public relations department, said the notice was revealed accidentally and would not have any real impact on the employees. He added that the 11 employees were notified that their leisure activities during office hours were "excessive".

Despite identifying such behavior recently, Gome prefers that its employees properly balance their leisure time during work hours rather than imposing punitive measures such as inefficient overtime, Zhang said.

However, Gome's behavior triggered heated debate online about how much control employers should have over their employees' working hours and performance.

Wang Lijie, a 28-year-old designer in Beijing who declined to reveal the name of her employer, said she does not like to be monitored too much.

"I need inspiration in my daily job," she said, adding that she did not think workers would perform better under overly strict supervision.

Yao Junchang, co-founder of the Beijing Weiheng Law Office, said: "Workers, as people, have their own emotions and physiological needs. It's understandable they may want to take a proper rest during work. For the company, it's necessary to set up rules and regulations for management to make clear what behavior is improper during work hours, such as browsing online and playing games."

He added that the labor law also states that workers have the right to have a rest during work.

"Workers are not machines," Yao said. "It's necessary to consider their needs. Companies can evaluate workers through performance assessments, through which they can better improve working efficiency."

Liang Jian, a professor and associate dean at the Advanced Institute of Business at Tongji University in Shanghai, said improper regulation and overregulation exposed employers' lack of confidence in their workers' performance.

"There is information asymmetry between the employer and the employee, which means the employer cannot be certain whether the employee will perform well at work, though the employee may perform well during interviews," he said.

Liang said employees will be resistant to undue supervision, which would, counterproductively, lead to higher turnover rates.

"A business owner runs his or her company to make money, but not everyone working in the company has the same goal as the business owner," he said. "From my perspective, as long as an employee finishes their work and obeys company regulations, it's enough to be a qualified worker.

"Also, everyone has privacy concerns and may be unwilling to have their personal information or business exposed. It's necessary for these owners to change the way they manage workers, who should keep a low profile to shape their labor relationship into a cooperative one."

He said business owners should give workers, especially the younger generation who are well-educated and have their own standards of value, respect and a platform to achieve their goals.

"It's better to improve an employee's work experience at the company," Liang said. "Then they will devote themselves to the job."

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