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S'pore workplace stress on the rise: survey

Workers face long unproductive meetings and working hours, organisational politics

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Some of you probably already feel that the office is a grim place. But if you want evidence of that, a survey has just confirmed that Singapore offices are stressful places.


SOME of you probably already feel that the office is a grim place. But if you want evidence of that, a survey has just confirmed that Singapore offices are stressful places.

The survey "Working in Asia", by Roffey Park, has found that not only do Singapore workers spend more hours at work relative to their Hong Kong and China peers, more than half (52 per cent of Singapore workers surveyed) say their stress level has gone up over the last six months.

Among Hong Kong workers, the figure is 43 per cent; among China workers, 45 per cent.

Forty per cent of Singapore workers polled named office politics as a major stressor; 35 per cent cited workload and 35 per cent, lack of support.

The survey found workload, lack of support and organisational politics to be the top three sources of workplace stress for workers across China, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Roffey Park, a leadership institute based in Singapore and the UK, said: "All three sources of stress may be helped to some degree by employees learning how to influence others, and to ensure that they are clear about their priorities."

A culture that is both open to challenge and generous with support would also make a substantial difference to the experience of stress.

"Cultivating this culture requires recruiting and developing the right sort of leaders."

More than two-fifths of employees said that they work more than 50 hours a week, the survey found. In Singapore, 27 per cent said that they worked 51-60 hours a week, and 16 per cent, more than 60 hours.

In Hong Kong, 32 per cent worked 51-60 hours, and 13 per cent, more than 60 hours.

The survey, covering talent and leadership issues, was carried out among 2,100 mid-level and senior-level professionals in the three locations, including 1,000 participants from Singapore.

Roffey Park noted that working long hours does not mean working productively, and that workers could be focusing on trying to do everything, instead of focusing their efforts on the right things.

Asked what they thought were barriers to greater productivity, the Singapore respondents cited office politics (44 per cent), long unproductive meetings (40 per cent) and excessive paperwork and administrative details (40 per cent). A senior manager in the financial industry said: "It seems that in this organisation, if you are good at what you do, people will overload you.

"This results in a burnout culture. There's a human element that is lacking here. Bosses need to be aware of the signs people give off when they are under too much pressure."

Roffey Park said that the main barriers to productivity were not IT infrastructure and lack of technical skills. Rather, the factors are interpersonal in nature, that is, having to work across silos, manage effective meetings and communicate better.

"To improve workforce productivity, leaders need to focus more on developing high-level interpersonal skills and fostering the right climate," it said.

But the difficulties workers face are unlikely to go away anytime soon; in fact, they may intensify, with employers investing less in employees than last year, the survey found.

Roffey Park has come up with an Employee Investment Index (EII), which shows the percentage of managers anticipating that they would invest more in employees, minus the percentage expecting to invest less.

It said that across all three places surveyed, "investment in employees seems to be on the lower end, especially compared with the data from Singapore last year". Singapore's EII this year is 13 per cent, down from 26 per cent last year.