Feeling stressed at work?

A number of national surveys have indicated that US employees experience a high level of job stress (e.g., US National Institute for Occupational Safety and HealthAmerican Psychological Association, 2013American Institute of StressAnxiety and Depression Association of America).

They are not alone. Job stress is prevalent at the local workplace:  Singapore workers report high workloads and high levels of stress, according to a 2012 survey of 2281 respondents conducted by JobCentral. Another recent study polling 150 local respondents by VMware New Way of Life 2013 identifies bosses and the level of work expected are as primary job stressors. As many as 69% of 411 local respondents in a 2011 workplace survey by Robert Half report checking into work, when taking a holiday or on personal leave.

Particularly telling is the finding that relatively few employees in Singapore appear to enjoy their job. According to Gallup research, only 2% report liking what they do everyday, leading some to argue that this explains the unsettling finding that Singapore appears the most unemotional workforce in the world. The 2009-11 Gallup poll results showed that only 36% of local respondents reported positive or negative emotions in a day. Elsewhere, far more people reported having negative emotions such as anger, stress, sadness, physical pain and worry or positive emotions such as feeling well-rested, smiling and laughing a lot, being treated with respect, enjoyment, and learning or doing something interesting, during their work day.

The stressors and coping styles of Singapore employees have been explored previously. Ho (1995) reported work overload, role ambiguity, and co-worker relationships to be the primary stressors for employees working in banking, finance, and insurance, while stress levels did not differ across industry. Clearly, not that much has changed since 1995.

What has changed is employee availability with the advent of mobile connectivity. The unrealistic expectation that employees should work 24/7 is however likely to be costly to the employer in the longer term: A 2012 Hudson report reveals that over 53% of respondents report a 40-to-50 hour work week and another 45% chalk up more than 50 hours of work each week. Not surprisingly, the rate of burnout in Singapore is relatively higher than that in the AsiaPacific region, and more than 60% of respondents have reported an increase in their workload.

So much for a work-life balance…

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