Human Resources

Why The Workaholism In Emerging Regions?

“Yours to win or yours to lose” is a phrase I have often found popping into my head in offices over the years. You can spot it in the blasé attitude of rich kids who find themselves in compulsory office spaces and can’t quite be bothered to do any work. It is evident in the casual lunchers who have already made their way to the top of the food chain and intend to ensconce themselves… Michelin starred. And of course, it can’t be missed in the weird glassy-eyed gusto of those workaholic individuals who are simply desperate-to-succeed.

Now new research suggests - perhaps not all that surprisingly - that this stark divide can also be seen across emerging and developed markets. Dell and Intel’s nearly 5,000 strong global workforce study, is based on respondents from 12 markets. And speaking from the perspective of someone who is spammed on a more-or-less daily basis with various research efforts, it is a pretty decent report.

In fact, unlike many of these studies, none of the samples are less than 150 (Turkey, UAE and South Africa). While 300 professionals are interviewed from Russia, and the remaining countries (US, UK, France, Germany, Japan, Brazil, India and China) have around 500 respondents.

This said, the lower sample sizes do, of course, come from emerging countries. But I think the numbers are still large enough to extrapolate some meaning from the results. And what struck me as the most interesting element, was the sheer volume of work done outside office hours in emerging markets: 83% check their emails - compared to 42% in developed countries. While 81% make phone calls - compared to 27% in developed counties.

Obviously this is partly cultural. There is no debate that Indian and Chinese professionals especially, are phenomenally hard working compared to their Western counterparts. This extreme work ethic is inculcated at a very young age by parents. Yet this stereotype is never applied to Brazilians and this research shows that 75% (compared to 46% from the US) check emails outside work and 58% make phone calls (compared to 22%). Interesting when you consider the US is the source of most of the global shouting about workaholism.

The second thing that struck me about these research findings is that the lag in technological development in emerging regions could also be attributed to a lag in attitudes. For example, these findings suggest that those in emerging regions are more likely to use their work devices for personal reasons and to view devices as more of a cross-over. They are also more likely to see technology as a good thing. And particularly in India, are more likely to worry that lack of available tech will hinder their career - and even see it as a reason to switch companies. A lot of this may well have been the case in the US 10 years ago.

Overall though, this does feel like the same old “yours to win or yours to lose” question. In developed markets we’ve already won – we have the best healthcare, the best infrastructure and the best job prospects. Our fear is technology will take over our lives and we’ll not have enough lovely leisure time. In emerging markets, on the other hand, there is everything to play for. And if using the latest technology and working harder is the way to do it then why not?


Kathryn Cave is Editor at IDG Connect


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