In Focus
HR & EDUCATION | Staff Reporter, Singapore

How burnout engulfs Singaporean employees amidst pandemic

As hours extend, some employees’ motivation to work diminishes.

Long shifts and the added burden of COVID-19 pandemic blurring the line between work and home life can make employees feel as if they’re navigating through a dark, endless tunnel. It’s a vicious cycle of waking up, clocking in, having tasks and stress pile up on one’s plate, and rendering overtime to make up for the unfinished tasks the day prior. Should one stay too long in this “tunnel”, they will eventually lose motivation to work and experience burnout.

Defined as the “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration”, burnout is classified by the World Health Organization in 2019 as an “occupational phenomenon” that can lead someone to seek care. But it is not a medical condition.

Burnout is a “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” according to WHO.  The WHO also characterises the phenomenon as: “1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy.”

A recent study published by team work management platform Asana reveals that more than eight in 10 Singaporean employees suffered from burnout in 2020, a number higher than the global average.

The city-state notably has the longest working week at over 42 hours, and is also the most likely country to work past 5:30 PM. In fact, according to a report by a report by IoT company Kisi, Singaporean employees’ number of actual work hours is 23% higher than the mandated 48 hours per week.

Interestingly, Singaporean employees have about five hours and 17 minutes each week that are reportedly lost on tasks that have already been completed. On a yearly basis, Singaporean workers lose about 252 hours to duplicated work, whilst they spend an average of 170 hours on unnecessary meetings and video calls, and 544 hours on working late hours.

Despite having longer hours and with almost every worker (93%) working late, Singaporean workers are shown to miss more than one in four (26%) of deadlines per week. If the processes are improved, employees will attain back nearly six hours 44 minutes each week.

Moreover, 74% of Singaporean employees experienced imposter syndrome—a sense of self-doubt over accomplishments and talent—in 2020, a rate that’s significantly higher than the global average of 62%, according to Asana.

If left unchecked, burnout can lead to an employee having lower morale, miscommunication, as well as a lack of motivation to work, with more mistakes being made.

As employees seek to strike a healthy balance between life and work, issues that can lead to burnout can only be resolved through the implementation of meaningful changes to how they work. “To reset, organisations need flexibility, an open dialogue, and better ways to manage work,” Asana said.

Almost half (46%) have emphasised the need for flexible working hours, whilst 41% claim encouraging people to take time off is necessary. Having an enjoyable, engaging job (50%) and knowing that their work will add value to the business (47%) are the top motivators for employees this year.

Adam Chicktong, general manager for APAC of Asana, commented: “Our research finds that Singapore employees are experiencing burnout and imposter syndrome at higher levels than the global average. With only 14% of Singapore workers feeling completely heard by their organisation, business leaders must prioritise the unique challenges their teams are facing in the modern workplace, whether that's at home or in the office.”







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