MENTAL HEALTH | Employees in PH, SG, Indonesia feel burnout from work — survey

Singapore’s workforce has the poorest mental health, job satisfaction, and quality of life in the region, new study finds.

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Half of employees surveyed in the Philippines, Singapore, and Indonesia, feel burnout from work at least a few times a month, identifying urgent mental health support needs in the workplace.

A new region-wide study has identified the Singaporean workforce as having the worst mental health across Southeast Asia, with local employees surveyed claiming the lowest levels of engagement, job satisfaction, and overall quality of life.

Conducted by Southeast Asian consumer research company, Milieu Insight, in collaboration with Intellect, this Hustle Culture study surveyed 3,000 employees across the Philippines, Singapore, and Indonesia, and discovered only 57% of Singaporeans rated their mental health to be “good”, “very good” or “excellent”, compared to 68% in Indonesia and 78% in the Philippines.

“This report is our first step in gaining a deeper understanding of ‘hustle culture’ and its impact on our local and regional communities,” said Theodoric Chew, co-founder & chief executive of Intellect. “At Intellect, our aim is to tackle ongoing challenges with workplace fatigue, burnout and employee mental health. While companies may be hesitant to invest in more robust wellbeing initiatives such as coaching or counseling, it is a necessary step in building workforce mental resilience, in line with the Singapore government’s goal to improve employment support for those with mental health conditions.”

While numerous factors have contributed to burnout and fatigue among the workforce – including financial and geopolitical uncertainties, Covid-19, a potential global recession on the horizon – the glamorization of productivity and the “rise and grind” mentality has taken its toll on the region’s workforce, especially younger employees. According to the study, the top reasons employees push themselves so hard is the desire to build a better life for themselves and their loved ones (58%), achieving a sense of accomplishment (53%), and earning more income (50%).

Across all 3 countries, 16-24 year olds tend to be motivated by the “fear of not being able to do as well as my peers”, with 30% in Singapore, 20% in the Philippines and 11% in Indonesia indicating so. As a result, 50% of employees across the region have reported feeling burnt out from work at least a few times a month, with 41% “often” or “always” feeling as though they cannot stop thinking about work.

“Interestingly, we ran a similar study in 2020 among 2,000+ Singaporeans, where we found that 52% of 16 to 24 year-olds actually embraced the idea of hustle culture, and working as hard as possible to advance one’s career,” said Stephen Tracy, chief operating officer of Milieu Insight. “Two years on, I think this poll sheds light on how opinions toward work have evolved, and how the effects of the pandemic and other global issues, such as inflation and a looming recession, may be weighing on the younger generations. The data highlights just how important it is for employees to be mindful of their work-life balance, and for employers to cultivate positive and balanced working environments.”

Insights from the study show that on average, Singapore employees spend less than or as much time at work than their regional counterparts, but report the lowest levels of engagement and job satisfaction. In Singapore, just 42% of talent reported high engagement at work (having indicated a score of 8 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10), compared to 52% of Indonesian employees and 56% of Filipino employees. At the same time, 26% of Singaporeans employees are dissatisfied with their job, compared to 15% in Indonesia and 17% in the Philippines.

Even more worryingly, half (52%) of Singapore employees report having poor quality of life, compared to 37% and 36% in Indonesia and the Philippines respectively. This also translates into poor sleep, with 30% of Singaporeans admitting to poor sleep quality (having indicated a score of 4 or below on a scale of 0 to 10), compared to 19% of Indonesian employees and 16% of Filipino employees.

“Employees may tie their self-worth and identity to professional achievements, further propagating the glorification of workaholism,” said Dr Oliver Suendermann, clinical director of Intellect. “At Intellect, we encourage employers to normalize conversations about employee mental health to help shift workplace cultures towards having more open conversations about personal wellbeing, and taking preventive and reactive measures to care for their workforce. An empowered workforce is more likely to realize their full potential at work and bring greater value to their team. Intellect’s mission is to provide businesses and consumers a tech-empowered, end-to-end holistic approach to increase access to mental healthcare in Asia.”

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