HKBN grants three-day leaves to staff who are new grandparents. Photo: Youtube/ HKBN/ Wikimedia Commons
HKBN grants three-day leaves to staff who are new grandparents. Photo: Youtube/ HKBN/ Wikimedia Commons

Hong Kong Broadband Network has said getting the balance right between work and whatever else makes up an employee’s life pays off in the bottom line. That now includes grandparents.

Or as the company put it in last year’s annual report: “a LIFE-work priority focus has played a strategic role in channeling Talent happiness into enhanced proficiency at work.”

So, no surprise to find those nice folk at HKBN have decided grandparents need to be brought into this picture. Employees who persuade their kids to get down and procreate will get an extra three days off work.

All in the cause of the serious business of replenishing the city’s dwindling stock of babies. (Future HKBN workers?)

When the world thinks of dwindling and graying populations, Japan is the poster child for barren marital beds. But Hong Kong — and for that matter Singapore and Taiwan, too — are all heading down the same track.

It’s all part and parcel of the Carlyle Group company’s “staunch dedication to conducting business responsibly, as well as efforts to do good for our community,” as the report puts it. Of course, HKBN’s reputation for being a fun factory helps in retaining staff in a cutthroat local industry.

All employees have to do to claim their three-day break is produce a photo showing all three generations of their family. 

Chan Chun-yu, HKBN’s associate director for Talent Management & Organization Development, says he hopes to give employees more space to enjoy personal and family life and that this will increase their working efficiency and productivity.

To make sure employees do spend more time with their families, they get a “family caring day.”

HKBN already gives staff half a day off on one Friday each month. Then there’s half a day for every important Chinese festival, from Ching Ming to Mid-autumn to Chung Yeung. That’s on top of a seven-hour day, five day week that would make the French blush. Oh, and the above-average 17 days of regular annual leave.

Then there’s the wonderfully ironic day off to celebrate work anniversaries, as well as the “buy-one-get-one-free” scheme that lets staff buy two days of holiday with the equivalent of one day’s pay.

And if they feel like they need to do some work on their holidays to make up for all the work they’re not getting done at work because of all their holidays, they get two days off each year to volunteer to work somewhere else that values their work.

Employees too exhausted by the endless opportunities to avoid work at HKBN might avail themselves of a generous — though as of yet (come on HKBN!) — unpaid sabbatical of up to one year.

The company has even gone out of its way to stop work getting in the way of traditional family activities, giving half days for staff who stayed up all night watching World Cup games in the bar. For a local company, they have a fine sense of how international time zones can wreck a busy executives schedule.

For HKBN’s female contingent, the company offers 16 weeks of maternity leave. While longer than the average of 12 weeks, it is sadly outdone by Standard Chartered’s recent raising of the bar to 20 weeks.

Fathers on the other hand … well they get two weeks off for all their hard work and effort in fainting in the delivery room, wetting the baby’s head with their friends, and asking the domestic helper to change the diapers.

It was so worth getting married to avail of the baby bonus. And, of course, the five-day break for the wedding itself. 

Of course, the trouble with being so generous is that the low-hanging fruit is easily exhausted. Human nature being what it is, the dopamine rush we experience at the first encounter with nice managers soon gives way to an acceptance of our conditions as the new normal.

Given the high cost for young couples to get on the housing ladder and the shortage of steady, well-paid jobs with the kind of stable prospects conducive to the long-term commitments of raising children, there’s a good chance HKBN won’t have to deliver on too many “granny grants.”

Still, we should all applaud their gesture — even if it’s just a marketing gimmick — in the hope that more local companies follow suit and make Hong Kong less of a workaholic city.