Work-life balance Singapore: How Can You Help Employees in maintaining it?

Zoeb Morbiwala
May 17

If you are working in Singapore, you might know that Singapore is one of the world's most overworked countries. You are probably familiar with terms like overtime, hustle culture, and burnout. Competitiveness and overwork are often glorified in Singapore, resulting in a work culture where employees constantly try to prove their worth by giving up their personal lives. 

In addition to this, the increasing cost of living, competition at the workplace, and the fear of losing one's job create a work culture that promotes unhealthy expectations from employees to work beyond their limits. 

A recent international study by Kisi ranked Singapore as the second most overworked city globally, making it obvious why a majority of the working population in Singapore suffers from a skewed work-life balance.

The aftereffects of this can be far-reaching. Decreased productivity, increased levels of stress, high rate of absenteeism and staff turnover, a widespread feeling of burnt out, and display of insincerity at work are some common problems employees face. However, most employers have now started recognising this as an issue that requires attention and implementation of strategies to provide a better work-life balance to their employees.

What is work-life balance? 

We all have been in a situation where it feels that our work life is taking precedence over everything else. The expectations from the workplace are rising, and our ability to cope with the growing demands is taking a toll on our personal life. It gives rise to a feeling of discontent and disengagement at work and leaves us feeling burnt out at all times. 

In an ideal world, you would want to have a life where you can fulfil all your expectations at work while also successfully integrating family time into your daily routine. This is defined as a work-life balance that has increasingly been elusive for a large majority of people in the world, especially during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Best practices that can be followed by employers and employees for better work-life balance 

Certain things are easier said than done, and creating a healthy work-life balance is one for both employees and employers. So, here are ten things that organisations and employees can do to maintain that much-needed balance in life: 

Things employees should do: 

Invest in working smart 

Putting in long hours at work doesn’t always mean higher productivity. The idea is to work smart rather than spend excessive time on the same task. The number of hours doesn’t decide your success; how efficiently you do your work does.  

Here’s what you can do: 

  • Keep track of your time 
  • Set realistic deadlines for your work 
  • Create a list of assignments to be done based on priority 
  • Focus on one thing at a time  

These techniques will help you to become more productive while reducing work-related stress and overtime. 

Minimise distractions during specific periods of work time 

There can be several distractions during work hours, especially when you are working from home. Work in short bursts with complete focus to increase productivity. Taking regular breaks helps with better concentration. You can also identify what distracts you the most and use it as a motivation. 

This could be: 

  • Spending quality time with family 
  • Pursuing a hobby 
  • Taking some ‘me time’ out 
  • Distressing by listening to your favourite music or going for a walk 

Doing these things will help you concentrate better at work and create a healthier work-life balance. 

Create a proper routine, and stick to it 

One of the best ways to manage your working hours and create enough time for your personal life is to create a proper schedule/routine. This will help you manage your tasks more efficiently without putting in extra hours to finish your daily tasks. 

Here’s what you can do:

  • Start your day early. It gives you more time to do things
  • Create a specific place for work at home
  • Don’t let your family or office  time and space coincide
  • Be firm about sticking to your routine, even if it feels hard 

Having a proper schedule or a clearly defined routine means you dedicate an equal amount of time to your work and personal life without overpowering the other. 

Prioritise your physical and mental health 

An unhealthy you will neither be able to perform at work nor fulfil duties in your personal sphere. Taking care of your health should be your priority. Be it physical, emotional, or mental - don’t compromise your health for work. 

Here’s how you can achieve a healthy body and mind

  • Exercise regularly for physical fitness 
  • Meditate, de-stress for mental health 
  • Make stronger social connections for emotional wellbeing 
  • Ask for help/consultation if you find it too difficult to handle things 

There is no harm in seeking professional help if you feel stressed. Make your health a priority rather than giving in to social stigma. 

Focus on one thing at a time 

Multitasking might sound the way to finish everything off on time, but it doesn’t always work. It is better to concentrate on one thing at a time rather than overwhelming your mind by trying to finish off all the tasks simultaneously.  

Instead, try doing this:

  • Finish one task at a time and do it well 
  • Set short-term daily goals for achievable results in the long run 
  • Take a short break after every task is finished 
  • Start by finishing the tough ones first 

Following these tips will help you concentrate better on your tasks, and you won’t have to revisit them to rectify mistakes that might happen due to multitasking. 

Have a social life outside of work 

To enjoy a healthy work-life balance, having an active social life is extremely important. This will give you a chance to reconnect with your fun self, meet people you enjoy spending time with, refresh and re-energize your familial ties and have fun with your family.

  • Create real connections 
  • Go out with family often 
  • Meet people you enjoy being with 
  • Don’t base your happiness on social media 

Be it your friends, relatives, or acquaintances; it is important to create meaningful connections. It improves the quality of life. 

Things employers must do: 

Offer flexible/remote work arrangements 

A happier workforce is a productive workforce. Organisations must keep the employee interest in mind and provide them with a flexible work arrangement that values their efforts while keeping their interests and convenience into account. 

Here’s what you can do:

  • Let employees work from home whenever possible 
  • Provide them with appropriate tools to efficiently operate at home 
  • Avoid micromanaging during WFH days 
  • Implement a no working beyond office hours policy in work from office days 

This way, they will be able to take time out for their families and feel motivated to give their best to their work. 

Make completion of tasks important, not working hours 

An increasing number of organisations globally are doing away with fixed working hours and emphasising a work-based atmosphere where employee performance is gauged by tasks completed. This is a good practice to adopt. 

Things you can do to implement it:

  • Focus on the result, not how it is done 
  • Give employees more space and freedom to experiment 
  • Encourage open discussions; brilliant ideas often take shape there 

Encourage breaks and vacations 

Vacations and leisure breaks should be seen as an activity to boost employee productivity rather than just as an employee benefit. Companies encouraging breaks and timely vacations have seen better performance as employees feel reassured that their company cares about them. 

Here’s what you can do:

  • Make paid time off work mandatory 
  • Discourage vacation shaming 
  • Shorter and frequent breaks could be more beneficial 
  • Limit vacation rollover 

Even the most hard-working employee needs time off work. It has been observed that employees return motivated after vacations. 

Lead by example  

Be the change you want to see. As an employer/manager, have a healthy work-life balance yourself. Only then will you be able to create the right atmosphere. Your employees will feel the pressure if you continuously work and do not promote their wellness. 

Here’s what managers should do

  • Bring a positive change at work  - don’t glorify overworking, be objective about working hours. 
  • Take time off, set clear boundaries 
  • Don’t call/email employees beyond work hours 
  • Encourage healthier work-life yourself, your employees will follow 

Leading by example is the best way to bring about the changes around you. As an employer or a manager, your actions will also reflect your employees. 

Conclusion

Creating an atmosphere that promotes a healthy work-life balance requires creativity, empathy, and discipline, but the positives are for the employers to reap. Increased productivity, commitment, loyalty, sincerity, less absenteeism, stress-free workplace and workforce, and employee well-being are just a few things you get in return. These factors can have a long-lasting impact on a company’s business as a more committed and productive workforce would perform better. 

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