Transcending employee wellbeing to create a better work-life balance

Malaysia is struggling with work-life balance and organisations need to rethink their approaches to reset the balance.
By: | July 5, 2024

Employers in Malaysia, you have been warned. An impending crisis in the workplace is brewing, with many employees apparently teetering on the precipice of burnout and exhaustion.

According to a recent study conducted by Remote, Malaysia ranked as the worst Asian country for poor work-life balance; from a global context, this ranks the country second only to African nation Nigeria.

Conducted in March 2023, Remote’s study revealed that employees in Malaysia worked an average of 40.5 hours per week, enjoyed an average of just 16 days annual leave, and earn a minimum hourly wage of RM5.05 (US$1.07).

What then, are some of the key contributing factors behind the lack of work-life balance in the country?

Long working hours comes immediately to mind, said Dato’ Norashikin Ismail, Vice-President of Human Resources, Asia, Synthomer. “Many employees work long hours due to cultural norms, workload demands, and sometimes inefficiencies in work processes,” she told HRM Asia.

The increasing cost of living is not helping matters, particularly for employees based in the nation’s capital. “The high cost of living in urban areas like Kuala Lumpur necessitates longer working hours to maintain a decent standard of living, leading to less time for personal life,” said Dato’ Norashikin.

To exacerbate matters, employees based in Malaysia’s major cities also have to cope with traffic congestion, which further reduces personal time outside of work when employees have to spend time commuting, often in stressful situations.

While organisations may be cognisant of the challenges faced by their employees, there is still a lack of robust policies that promote work-life balance, such as flexible working or benefits like parental leave, lamented Dato’ Norashikin.

She added, “Organisations can provide more support for employees by offering options like flexitime or remote work, which can help employee manage their work hours more effectively, reduce their stress, and improve their satisfaction.”

Workplace leaders should also set an example by setting clear boundaries between work and personal life, such as discouraging after-hours emails and calls unless they are urgently required.

READ MORE: CHRO Malaysia 2024 to address key HR strategies amid new HR roadmap

Lastly, it is a test of organisations’ commitment to promoting wellbeing across all work policies, as Dato’ Norashikin highlighted, “Providing wellness programmes, mental health support, and access to fitness facilities can all contribute to a healthier work-life balance, and most importantly, establishing a link between your people strategy and your wellbeing agenda.”


To find out more about how you can more effectively create a work culture that prioritises employee happiness and fulfilment, join Dato’ Norashikin at CHRO Malaysia 2024, which is taking place at the Sofitel Kuala Lumpur Damansara on July 10.

In her session titled, Transcending Employee Wellbeing: Embracing a Culture of Engagement and Empathy, Dato’ Norashikin will take a deep dive into how organisations can foster a supportive work environment that promotes mental health, work-life balance, professional development, and a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

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