In Singapore, work is a leading cause of rising stress levels, followed by financial concerns and health concerns, according to a survey by global health service company Cigna Corporation.
April Chang, Chief Executive Officer, Cigna Singapore, says: “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.”
Negative sentiments permeate all aspects of work, with 2019 scores lower than 2018 across the board except for work-related stress, which remains unchanged. Stress is prevalent, of respondents who work, 92% are stressed, higher than the global average of 84%. Of this, almost one in eight (13%) say their stress is unmanageable – on par with the global average.
This year Cigna asked how people feel about their colleague’s stress. Only 55% notice their colleagues’ stress, a sign that they may be hiding their stress or uncomfortable talking about it. More than 90% of respondents feel that stress has a serious impact on the workplace, citing lower morale and possible resignation of colleagues as some of the more worrisome effects. The results show that seeing other’s stressed at work makes 30% of the respondents feel more conscious about managing their own stress.
Lack of employer support
Only one third (33%) of the respondents say they have a formal workplace wellness program and only half of those participated. This highlights the need to reassess how beneficial and/or accessible these programs are to employees. Additionally, 44% feel that these programs are not focused enough on mental well-being.
“Employers can re-assess their workplace wellness programs to encourage more participation and answer specific needs,” says Chang. “A shift in company culture, from encouraging wellness conversation to specifically tailored programs, is vital for the health of any business.”
‘Always On’ workplace culture
The survey found Singaporean women are slightly less stressed than their male counterparts but for those that suffer from stress, they feel the stress is more unmanageable, which inadvertently leads them to neglect their physical health more than men. Based on the survey, 54% of women feel physically healthy compared to 56% of men, who are more likely to sleep better and longer, engage in exercise and eat a proper diet. Top causes of stress for single, married and working mothers vary, but all mention personal finance, too much work, and personal health, as the source of their stress, suggesting that women are putting family first and themselves last.
Significantly more women than men, 71% compared to 66%, feel they work in an ‘always on’ corporate culture. To better manage stress, they want their employers to focus on flexible work arrangements, special paid leave and opportunities to work from home. Flexible working hours is the top desire of women, whether married, single or working mothers.
Nearly two-thirds (59%) of women feel that workplace wellness programs need to better address the needs of each gender, and more than half feel that senior management do not support workplace wellness programs enough.
Less ready for old age
Singaporeans feel they are less prepared for old age, physically, mentally or financially. Only 31% are financially ready for old age, which they believe begins at 59 years of age, compared to the global average of 38%. When it comes to being active and healthy at old age, just over a half, (53%) of respondents feel ready, compared to the global average of 58%. The trend continues as only 57% feel mentally ready for older age versus 63% globally.
Two-thirds (67%) 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 aging. Of those surveyed, 68% are willing to work with older people but only 32% think companies are willing to hire them. 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 workgroup with representatives from unions, employers and the Government to address older workers' concerns, as well as a community-based approach with voluntary welfare organizations.