Joyce Lam
Joyce is a Senior Trends Analyst at Mintel, focusing on capturing consumer behaviour for the Asia Pacific market, as well as supporting the global Mintel Trends team to identify new consumer trends.

According to news reports, the South Korean government has implemented a 52-hour maximum workweek that will see working professionals working less than before—an initiative that is aimed at promoting work-life balance. If this rule is not followed, a business owner can face time in prison or a hefty fine.

South Korea is known to have some of the world’s longest working hours. Based on data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the average South Korean worked 2,024 hours in 2017, which is around 300 hours more than people in neighbouring country Japan and 700 hours more than in Germany.

The formal and hierarchical working culture is one of the explanations for South Korea’s long workweek; for instance, many employees will not leave the office before their supervisors do to avoid being seen as lazy or not committed to their jobs. However, clocking up the hours may not necessarily lead to higher productivity.

Meanwhile, numerous studies have found evidence that a good work-life balance will stimulate productivity; well-rested employees are less likely to make mistakes and take sick leave. We have seen similar measures from other governments around Asia, such as Japan and China, and the rest of the world, like Chile, to boost their country’s happiness levels. For South Korea, shortening the workweek is also an attempt to lift the country’s low fertility rate while bringing down its high suicide rates.

Finding balance in everything

Mintel Trend ‘Slow it All Down’ explains how consumers are now appreciating slowness as their lives become more hectic. As finding the right balance between work and life becomes more important, people are more likely to be on the lookout for things that help them relax and lift their moods. Napping studios, yoga and meditation classes, sleep-enhancing food products, and light phones that aim to reduce smartphone usage, are just a few examples that help consumers to slow it all down (at least once in a while).

Besides embracing opportunities to slow the pace of life, consumers also want fun and playful experiences where they can release their inner child. Theme parks, like the recently opened Running Man Experience Centre in Seoul, pop-ups and other experiential retail spaces, will be likely to attract attention from consumers, especially now that they have more time to shop, dine and bond with the people around them.