Survey: Seven in 10 Singaporeans found 2021 to be most stressful year ever

Other than heightened stress, a recent survey found that the pandemic has affected people’s career motivation and their sense of control over their professional lives. — ETX Studio pic
Other than heightened stress, a recent survey found that the pandemic has affected people’s career motivation and their sense of control over their professional lives. — ETX Studio pic

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SINGAPORE, Oct 27 — Nearly seven in 10 Singaporeans found 2021 to be the most stressful year at work, with 58 per cent struggling more with mental health in the workplace this year than in 2020. 

However, 77 per cent of the survey respondents also found that their companies were more concerned about protecting their mental health than before the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In the survey done by computer software firm Oracle on Wednesday (Oct 27) from July to August, the findings also showed that for 92 per cent of the respondents, the meaning of success for them has changed since the pandemic hit. Their key priorities now are work-life balance, mental health and workplace flexibility, which were viewed as indicators of success by participants. 

More than 1,000 Singaporean employees, managers and human resource leaders were surveyed in this yearly report. 

Shaakun Khanna, head of human capital management cloud applications strategy for Asia Pacific at Oracle, said the reason why 68 per cent of the respondents said that they found this year to be the most stressful ever could be due to people overworking themselves in the work-from-home environment. 

“Your home responsibilities that you were able to keep at home when you go to the workplace are still hovering around.”

Previously in the office, people were more likely to take breaks from work to chat with colleagues and go for lunch breaks, for example, but this is not the same when working from home. 

When working from home, people log onto their devices for eight hours and the expectation is that they will continue to “work like machines”, Khanna said.

The ingrained expectation to always be available adds to the “emotional turbulence” of employees, which may in turn affect their mental health, he added.

Impact on careers and personal life

Other than heightened stress, the survey found that the pandemic has affected people’s career motivation and their sense of control over their professional lives. 

About eight in 10 Singaporeans have been “negatively impacted” last year.

33 per cent said they were struggling financially

29 per cent were lacking career motivation

26 per cent were suffering from declining mental health

The proportion of people who felt little to no control over their personal and professional lives nearly doubled since the start of the pandemic last year.

53 per cent said that they feel they have lost control over their futures

52 per cent said that the loss of control was over their personal lives

50 per cent said that they have lost control over their finances

The survey found that 77 per cent of the respondents felt like their companies were more concerned with protecting their mental health now than before the pandemic.

However, 93 per cent of the Singapore workforce was not satisfied with their employer’s support.

43 per cent of those surveyed said that they were looking for organisations to provide more learning and skills development

37 per cent were seeking opportunities to take up new roles within their company

37 per cent were looking for more workplace flexibility, such as having the ability to work remotely

Khanna said that the evolving nature of the workplace has reset expectations on how organisations can best support them. 

“Mental health is a larger priority now than financial gains for a lot of people who are working.”

Reflecting on priorities

Most respondents said that the pandemic has reoriented their perception of their careers. 

A large majority (93 per cent) of the respondents used the past year to reflect on their lives, with 92 per cent saying that the meaning of success has changed for them since the pandemic.

Among the top priorities were work-life balance (46 per cent), mental health (42 per cent) and workplace flexibility (41 per cent). 

“Traditionally, factors like your education level, skill sets and how much you earn were seen as key success factors,” Oracle said. 

Khanna said: “Singaporeans have been known for their work ethic and the amount of hard work and long hours put in, but for the first time perhaps, people are talking more about how work-life balance is important.”

In all, 90 per cent of those polled were ready to make a change in profession, but 86 per cent said that they were facing “major obstacles”. These included:

28 per cent who said that they were not feeling confident enough to make a change

28 per cent seeing no growth opportunities at their company

27 per cent not knowing what career change makes sense for them 

What they were willing to give up

For more career opportunities or a change in profession going into 2022, most respondents were willing to give up key benefits such as flexible work arrangements (62 per cent), holiday time (57 per cent), monetary bonuses (53 per cent) or part of their salary (49 per cent)

Khanna said that rather than chase monetary success, more people have been seeking more meaningful work during the pandemic.

“They started realising that monetary success and linear growth in their career can only take them so far,” he added. 

“To attract and retain talent, businesses need to place a higher priority on helping employees identify and develop new skills and provide personalised career journeys so they can feel in control of their careers again.” — TODAY

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