New shorter working hour system has shaken up office environment in South Korea
  • 6 years ago
More than a week has passed since the new 52-hour maximum working week was rolled out here in South Korea.... to improve the work-life balance of millions of people.
But going along with the change has been a grind for some businesses.
So what is the general public thinking about this new system?
Our Won Jung-hwan went out to hear them.
Businesses in South Korea with more than 300 employees are now prevented from making or allowing their employees to work more than 52 hours a week.
The Moon Jae-in government changed the law as part of its efforts to ensure a healthier work-life balance for South Koreans... who work some of the longest hours in the OECD.
The system may have only been in place for a week or so,... but those affected by the new regulations say the atmosphere in their offices has become much more positive as a result.

"As my company is encouraging us to work fewer hours, I feel less pressure coming to work late or going home early. It also makes it easier to take care of my kids as a working mother."

"Since I can't be in the office more than 52 hours a week,... my working style has changed. It has helped me balance my time at work much better than before."

Although this is only the early stage of a massive transition for the country, it seems most businesses are adopting to the new system without too much of a hitch.
This is mainly because many large corporations were already applying the rules beforehand... in preparation for the new system.
Some office workers say the changes have made them more productive at work.

"At 5:30PM every weekday,... an alarm rings and we shut down our computers . At first, I felt under pressure to get all my work done in the allotted time,... but over the past few months, I've adapted and I work more efficiently now."

"Since our PCs are shut off automatically when the workday is over,… employees seem to spend less time smoking, drinking coffee, or chit-chatting with their colleagues."

But it's not all rosy.
There is still anxiety and confusion in certain industries.
For example, with most workers clocking out around the same time each evening,... bus companies are under strain... trying to lay on more buses... and find more drivers.
Some industries also complain that the development of new products, for example,... requires intense periods of long hours and they say the new restrictions on working hours are going to undermine their business revenue.

However, the changes have generally been rolled out smoothly at South Korea's biggest companies.
The new system is proving more complicated for mid-sized firms that did not have the resources to implement the system in stages or on a trial basis first.
Most experts say the biggest problems will pop up in the coming years when small firms -- that generally don't have the funds to hire extra people -- will be subject to the same strict rules.
Won Jung-hwan, Arirang News.