Countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan have always been known for their hectic, fast-paced work culture. Like many Asian countries, most offices in Hong Kong are prone to strict and long working schedules, formal work environments and poor work life balance.
With no maximum working hours put in place, Hong Kong is amongst the countries with the longest working hours. But since the abrupt shift to working from home last year in lieu of the pandemic, a new form of work culture that incorporates remote and flexible working has been brought to the limelight.
It might have seemed foreign in Asia at first, but flexibility in working hours can actually be traced back to a much loved Spanish tradition... the siesta.
The word “siesta” comes from the Latin phrase “la hora sexta” which literally translates to “the sixth hour” and refers to “a midday rest”.
Siesta originated from Roman times when people would stop work to eat lunch and take a nap to escape the midday sun. This tradition spread across other cultures and countries throughout the centuries, and was particularly prominent in Mediterranean cultures where afternoon temperatures can reach as high as 40 degrees or above.
Once it’s cooled down enough, workers would go back to work to complete their tasks for the day.
Despite its past popularity, the Spanish tradition of taking a midday nap has been fading out over time thanks to the growing number of large corporates and transnational companies in major cities. Nowadays, only 18% of Spaniard employees occasionally take a siesta.
Nonetheless, the tradition of a siesta lives on as 'jornada partida', or a split-shift workday. In Spain, you can expect working hours for offices and shops to be from around 9am to 1pm and then from 4pm to 8pm. The long afternoon break, which can be as long as 4 hours, splits the workday into two parts.
Instead of the typical 9 to 5 working hours with an hour taken as a lunchtime break, Spaniard employees have long lunches, allowing them to spend time with their families or perhaps even take a siesta before heading back to work again. The total number of working hours remain the same as a normal work schedule in other countries, but split-shift workers can have the afternoons to themselves. The split-shift working style is a stark contrast to the intense office days in Asia where employees are sometimes expected to eat lunch in their office cubicle or stay in the office past dinner time to do overtime work.
While some may criticize the split-shift schedule for compromising productivity and condoning employees to slack off, at BOOQED, we believe the emphasis and prioritization on work-life balance is the direction modern work culture should, and is, heading towards.
The one good thing that has come out of the pandemic is that companies have been forced to test the waters of flexible working and allow their employees to customize their own working schedule for the day. Maybe a split-shift work schedule should be further explored in our modern work culture!
If you’re still new to the idea, here are a few advantages of the siesta-inspired work culture and how it can revolutionize your workday!
For all of you nappers, here is your validation: a short afternoon nap is good for you. The Asian workforce is one of the world’s most sleep-deprived populations, Hongkongers get just 6.5 hours of sleep on a regular basis whereas a healthy adult needs between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every day.
Some studies have even suggested that afternoon naps (of a certain length!) can help you sleep better at night. It can also improve your memory, keep your heart healthy, reduce stress, sustain productivity at your job and boost creativity.
By adding a midday break, you can have more than enough time for a relaxing siesta before kickstarting the second half of your workday. Who knows, you might not even need that afternoon cup of coffee to stay focused at the office.
Grabbing a sandwich or supermarket meal to go is a common occurrence for Hongkongers handling a hectic workday with a packed schedule. Eating too quickly not only causes stomach issues and weight gain, it can also increase risk for cardiovascular diseases, stroke and diabetes.
Moreover, with a short lunch hour, employees may steer towards eating fast-food because of its convenience and speedy service, not exactly the healthiest choice.
So, besides the physical and mental health benefits of napping, a split-shift schedule allows time for you to take a proper break, which means having a sit-down freshly-cooked meal at home or with friends and family rather than eating an unhealthy lunch by yourself at your desk as you work.
Do you ever feel trapped in the office when it’s a really nice day out and you just want to go to the park or go for a walk under the sun? Do you find yourself stressing about when to fit in medical appointments and having to rush off after work to run errands, worried that you can’t make it to the post-office or supermarket before they close for the day?
With a split-shift schedule, you can have more free time to fit activities in (like going to the gym) or complete tasks that can’t be done in the evening after work.
Sadly, Asia is notorious for its intense work culture, causing immense stress and depression amongst the population. The “life is all about work” mentality is enforced by long working hours and insufficient off time to spend with family and friends.
When overtime is the norm, weekends become the only free-time for people to do things outside of work. Implementing a split-shift schedule allows employees to learn time management so they can handle other aspects of their personal life, whether it is enjoying an outdoor activity with loved ones, picking their kids up from school or going to the dentist.
Who hasn’t experienced that infamous 4pm slump before?! Numerous studies have concluded that the equilibrium duration for work that requires concentration and creativity is actually just 4 hours. By splitting the workday into two parts, employees can enjoy a proper break to disengage from work and subsequently a higher level of productivity.
For creatives like writers and designers, a split-shift schedule is perfect to plan your day in a way that works best for you! Some might prefer to complete the mundane administrative tasks in the morning and use afternoons for producing creative content. Of course, this is also applicable to other fields of work. Planning your tasks according to two separate halves of the day can provide clarity to your work schedule, help you focus and get work done faster.
All in all, the split-shift schedule is a great alternative to the traditional 9-5 working days at modern offices around Asia. Although it isn’t without flaws, this Spanish tradition really inspires us in the way that it emphasizes a good work-life balance and gives employees the freedom to plan their own day.
If you have the option of flexible working hours or are working from home, give it a go! It might just be the perfect working solution for you!