“A busy work life, combined with an ‘always on’ culture, is impacting the physical and social well-being of Singaporeans. The stigma of seeking help for mental well-being may also prevent many from pursuing professional help.”– April Chang, chief executive officer at Cigna
Work-related stress continuously becomes main issue in the discussion of employee wellbeing. Stress and anxiety at work affect how workers feel about their workplace while directly contribute to a decline in physical and mental health. A recent study commissioned by Cigna titled “2019 Cigna 360 Well-being Survey Well & Beyond” found that India, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Indonesia showing the strongest improvement in overall wellness with a rise of between 2.1 and 4.4 points. On the other hand, the U.S., New Zealand, Taiwan, and Singapore showed slight drops, with New Zealand reporting the largest fall.
Among Asian countries, Singaporeans rate companies as leading cause of rising stress levels, followed by financial concerns and health concerns. The report suggested that stress is also attributed to the ‘always on’ culture, particularly among women. The index of overall wellness in Singapore has dropped by 1.7 points to 57.8 compared with 2018, placing it fifth lowest globally. It also has a sharp decline in physical wellness, a drop of 4.4 points, attributed to an increase in sleepless nights.
Unhappy in workplace
With negative sentiments permeate all aspect of work, 92 percent respondents in Singapore cited that they are stressed. It is higher than global average stress which contributes around 84 percent and almost 1 in 8 say their stress in unmanageable. Cigna’s survey cited that only 55 percent employees notice their colleagues’ stress, a sign that they might be hiding their stress or feeling uncomfortable to talk about it openly.
Additionally, majority (more than 90 percent) respondents feel that stress has a serious impact on their work life. Some said it impacts on their morale that eventually lead to resignation. It is also mentioned that seeing other’s stressed at work makes 30 percent of respondents feel more conscious about managing their own stress.
Lack of employer support
According to the survey, only 33 percent respondents said they have formal workplace wellness program and only half of those participate. This finding highlights the needs to reassess how beneficial and/or accessible wellness program is. Moreover, 44 percent stated that these programs are not focused enough on mental well-being. “Employers can re-assess their workplace programs to encourage more participant and answer specific needs. A shift in company culture, from encouraging wellness conversation to specifically tailored programs, is vital for the health of any business,” said Chang.
Women suffer from ‘always on’ workplace culture
Cigna’s survey found that Singaporean women are slightly less stressed than their male counterparts. Top causes of stress vary, including personal finance, too much work, and personal health. However, for those who suffer from stress cannot neglect their physical health more than men. Based on the survey, 54 percent of women feel physically healthy compared to 56 percent of men.
Significantly more women than men feel they work in an ‘always on’ corporate culture which lead to more stress. In this case, company can help them by providing flexible work arrangements, specific paid leave, and opportunities to work from home. The survey mentioned that flexible working hours is top desire choice. Chang said, “Workplace demographics and needs have changed over time, yet corporate wellness programs have often remained cookie-cutter, claiming to cater to all when, in fact, only a select few benefit.” Hence, employers who want to see their business grow must prioritise wellness program, achieving wellness program to next level and not only create it as an additional perk.
Less ready for old age
Lastly, Singaporeans women feel that they are less prepared for old age, physically, mentally, and financially. As cited in the same survey, “When it comes to being active and healthy at old age, 53 percent of respondents feel ready, compared to global average of 58 percent. Trend continues as only 57 percent feel mentally ready for older age versus 63 percent globally.”
Two-thirds anticipate working in older age for various reasons, primarily to stay physically and mentally active and keep busy, but also to stay financially viable, echoing respondents’ financial concerns associated with ageing. Of those surveyed, 68 percent are willing to work with older people but only 32 percent think companies are willing to hire them. Thus, these numbers should give companies some pause as they rethink their hiring policies to include the highly experienced older demographic. This is in line with initiatives from the Government, which include the setting up last year of a work group with representatives from unions, employers and the Government to address older workers’ concerns, as well as a community-based approach with voluntary welfare organisations.
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