Yes, it’s true. Work-life balance in Singapore is poor.
A study in 2019 by technology company Kisi ranked Singapore 32nd out of 40 cities in terms of work-life balance. Kisi considered factors like arrival time, hours worked per week, vacations offered and taken, paid maternity and paternity leave, and commuting time. They found that Singapore had the second-longest work week and had the lowest number of minimum vacation days. In fact, Singapore only has a state-mandated minimum of 7 vacation days, while Parisian workers are given a minimum of 30.
Our low rankings on the work-life index have not gone unnoticed. As a matter of fact, the Ministry of Manpower (“MOM“) has taken action to reverse this trend. This is especially since they note the clear benefits of having a work-life balance in Singapore such as a higher productivity rate, reduced health costs and better customer experience. Thus, it is extremely important for professionals to increase their work-life balance to improve at their job.
To this end, the MOM has even created a guide for employers to help improve their employees’ work-life balance. They now also provide grants to employers such as the Enhanced Work-Life Grant for flexible work arrangements to encourage better workplace practices.
Kisi’s CEO Bernhard Mehl stated that “as long as employees are stressed, they will not take advantage of the safeguards created for their well-being – no matter how progressive government and company reforms are.” He’s right – workers who are exhausted simply don’t have the energy to make use of policies designed to help them.
For the millennial employee, it seems like a challenge to have a healthy work-life balance. Yet, it is critical for you to do so because it will make all the difference to your mental and physical health. In order to enhance your work-life balance in Singapore, we’ve compiled 7 strategies to do so.
1. Communication Is Key
It’s easier to have a work-life balance if you communicate effectively, especially with your employer!
Having a good relationship and effective communication with your employer or boss can vastly improve work-life balance. You will feel more comfortable suggesting improvements to your employer and in turn, they would be receptive to your suggestions. It is clearly easier to inform your boss about your struggles at work when you have a good working relationship with him/her.
When you bring up your work-life balance issues, be sure to raise the possible negative effects on your work output and office productivity. At the end of the day, your employer wants to know how your problems are affecting the company’s bottom line. Tell them about the need for a more flexible work schedule so that you can better contribute to the company. In fact, freeing up more rest time for the company’s employees could actually be highly beneficial to the company!
2. Personal Discipline Is Ever So Important
Personal discipline, a critical yet often overlooked factor to improving work-life balance.
Focusing during the day and being disciplined helps you get all your work done on time. Part of having discipline is not giving in to procrastination. Curbing procrastination may be quite a challenge to some, yet it is key to shortening your workday.
Try keeping a planner or a bullet journal, and maintain a schedule of assignments. Break big assignments into smaller ones and set your deadlines for each mini-assignment. This makes the tasks more achievable and increases the chances of you actually completing your work. Also, reward yourself every time you check a task off your to-do list. This reward can be the smallest of things, even giving yourself a snack. If you still procrastinate, get external help. Engage the help of a friend or family to check your progress and motivate you.
Ultimately, having personal discipline would promote your work-life balance in Singapore and may even reduce work-related stress due to procrastination.
3. Set Clear Boundaries Between Work And Rest
The problem of having a desk/office job is that you can take your work home. This may actually make it more difficult to maintain a work-life balance in Singapore!
If you are bringing your work home, make sure to set clear and distinct boundaries between free time and work. How do you balance your work with your rest if you’re working when you’re supposed to be enjoying that coveted nap?
To do this, it is critical that you ensure that your colleagues value your rest time as well. As professionals, they should not be setting unreasonable deadlines and expecting you to finish their work with little lead time. Take a firm stance and let them know that this sort of behaviour is unfair to you and is counter-productive. By doing so, you can limit the work that you bring home and allow for reserve more time outside of your job for yourself.
4. Plan Activities That Make Life Enjoyable
Take that vacation. Go to the movies with your friends. Enjoy yourself when you’re supposed to! The idea is to make full use of your rest time and maintain that work-life balance.
You could plan all kinds of activities ranging from yoga classes to even a short getaway with your loved ones. Make the best out of your break, and you will come back to work rejuvenated and feeling fresh.
Planning a company trip could also be helpful. It may allow you and your colleagues to bond and release any office tension. This may, in turn, reduce office distractions and drama, which is essential for getting work done. Better relationships at work also allow for more effective communication and a more desirable working environment.
5. Seek Medical Advice
The reason why work-life balance is so important is that it affects your physical and mental health. Work is a major part of all of our lives and when it begins to feel suffocating, burnout slowly begins to set in. When the symptoms of burnout start to affect both the quality of your work and rest, then it is time to seek medical assistance.
The symptoms of burnout include a loss in appetite, chronic fatigue, heart palpitations, a sense of detachment and more. Burnout can be induced by a severe lack of work-life balance and in order to improve your health and get your life back on track, seeing a doctor or a therapist can really help you to clear your head.
There is still a stigma about seeking psychological help, but seeking help should never be seen as a sign of weakness. Sometimes burnout can be because of a lack of work-life balance, but many other factors (like your own personality and outlook on life) can come into play, and sometimes a therapist or psychologist can work out your issues better.
And if you’re under 30 and unsure about the steps to seek help, there is a free platform called CHAT, which provides mental health support young individuals up to the age of 30. By enhancing your mental state, you can increase your productivity and improve your work-life balance in Singapore.
6. Change Your Mindset
One of the main reasons for not having a good work-life balance in Singapore is an individual’s mindset. One may have perfectionistic tendencies, a pessimistic outlook, the need to take control, and an inability to shift expectations realistically. All these can lead one to work too hard and suffer from a work-life imbalance.
In particular, it has been reported that perfectionism has become an unhealthy ‘epidemic’ among millennials. While perfectionism helps you strive for the best in your work, it can sabotage your need for rest. This is because you may refuse to let go of your work until it is perfect. With almost everything in life, moderation is key. Setting high expectations for your work is good, but you should also be aware of your limits and not overexert yourself. You may have to develop better coping mechanisms and possibly even depend more on your co-workers to complete projects.
It is thus vital to correct your mindset and establish a more healthy relationship towards work. In fact, it is so important that you can even consider seeking professional help from a psychologist if you have difficulty shifting your mentality.
7. Make Bite-Sized Changes To Your Routine
So you’ve decided to change your routine to improve your work-life balance! Excellent! There’s one problem though. You set a goal to spend less time at your job. However, within a week, you’re back grinding at work until 3 am like nothing has changed. In such a case, your job habits have sabotaged your work-life balance in Singapore.
Breaking a habit is difficult, and it’s unrealistic to expect a noticeable improvement right away. Instead of wanting to completely change your work habits overnight, take it one step at a time. Maybe you could try doing fun and restful activities such as having family dinners once a week (rather than daily) as a start. Allocate less time for professional activities related to your job.
Who knows, taking these small and incremental steps may change your habits and result in a better work-life balance in Singapore.
Balancing work and professional life in Singapore can be a challenge. However, with better communication, discipline and boundaries, you can slowly but surely schedule better rest periods for yourself.
As Lecturers at RMIT University Carys Chan and Shea Fan stated in a recent article, it is “important for [employees] to take control of their lives and create more autonomy for themselves”. If your employers refuse to acknowledge your concerns, maybe it is time to find another job that demands less and allows for more rest.
Ultimately, preventing burnout and improving work-life balance in Singapore is not difficult. Both employers and employees have a role to play. Employers should adopt healthy work-life measures. On the other hand, you as an employee can play a part in your job to make your work-life balance better. By applying the above seven steps into your life, you too can lepak as hard as you work!
Also check out our career tips in Singapore to help you succeed faster in your professional career!