A SEASONED PR professional was on his annual break in the Argentine pampas but he still replied to his e-mail messages at all hours of the day. When he is in Singapore, his mobile phone is on 24/7 and he is constantly checking his e-mail.

In this day and age, exotic location or not, it seems you can never leave the office.

According to financial recruiting firm Robert Half, '69 per cent of Singapore professionals stay glued to work even when they are out of office'. This compares to the regional average of 66 per cent.

The firm says: 'The line between work and personal life is fast blurring for professionals in the Asia Pacific, with increasing workplace connectivity and higher expectations from bosses keeping more workers connected to work at all times.'

Mind you, the survey's definition of 'out of office' doesn't just mean leaving the workplace at the end of the day. It includes weekends and while you're on holiday too.

Reasons given by Singapore respondents to the survey cited the need to be available in case of any emergency at work. Sixty-six per cent ticked that observation.

It covered Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong and New Zealand, among others, and surveyed 1,651 - with 411 respondents based here.

Other reasons include 66 per cent saying they have to filter through work e-mail messages to ensure less stress on returning to the office; and work stresses. These numbers indicate rising work pressures.

Going further, the survey noted a high-level of dedication or - more pertinently - 'workaholism'. Many, 44 per cent, claim they do this to stay on top of work issues even when on holiday; 29 per cent believe they should be available 24/7 since they use company mobile phones. A large number, 59 per cent, cited techno-logical advances that allow access to work information from anywhere in the world.

In fact, the survey says 25 per cent simply cannot switch off.

A prime example of this is none other than my sister. Drop by any time in the day to visit her, and she's as likely to be cradling her iPad as her baby girl.

When I asked why she's online so much, she said sheepishly: 'I'm not a workaholic, really. I just want to see how things are handled when I'm not there.'

It's people like my sis who have transformed the office - indeed, the world - into a 24-hour-seven-days-a-week place.

Mr Tim Hird, managing director of Robert Half Singapore and Japan, said: 'The phenomenon of 24/7 workplace access made possible by technological advancements has led to hyper-connectivity and faster turnaround times.

'However, the pervasiveness of constant work activity also results in the erosion of personal space, higher stress levels and overall decline in quality of life for employees.'

The survey showed a substantial 96 per cent of employers expecting their staff to be available or 'on call' while out of the office or on leave. This is much higher than the regional average of 83 per cent.

Fortunately, Singapore's companies did better than its regional neighbours in terms of being realistic in their expectations. Seventy-seven per cent expect staff to be available and contactable only in emergencies, higher than the region's 57 per cent.

Said Mr Hird: 'Singapore bosses are more reasonable in their demands than their regional counterparts.'

So what should companies do to avoid this workplace 'stickiness'?

The Robert Half survey suggested proper handover issues, periodical reviews and staff redeployment to avoid employee burnout and ensure maximum efficiency through asset allocation.

Also, companies should offer flexi-work arrangements, maintain open channels of communication and encourage good performance with public recognition.

The survey also urges companies to organise employee welfare programmes to promote a healthy lifestyle such as sports events or team building activities.

Mr Hird emphasised: 'While our survey shows that Singapore professionals are generally hardworking and committed to their work, organisations would do well to promote good work-life balance practices and provide competitive remuneration that's commensurate with their employees' contributions, especially in the tight labour market.'

So the next time you are hiking in the Argentine pampas and the phone goes, take a deep breath and let it go to voicemail.