I just had to reprint this article in the Straits Times by Alan Tan, because it’s a reflection of what Singapore is becoming. It’s the key reason why the quality of life is low here even though Human Resources always talks about the virtues of Work Life Balance. Sadly, in most cases, it seems to be just talk.
This topic is close to my heart and please excuse me while I have my angry rant.
When I was working I had to put in hours till 10pm and the central air-conditioning would be turned off at 6pm leaving me with a splitting headache and nausea at the end of each night. When I instead took home my work to do, my boss wasn’t happy as she physically couldn’t see me working. This made me so mad. We were not being managed by the actual work done, but by what was perceived to be done. This is the case for my friends today as well. I used to be so frustrated when I had to work weekends as well without any time off. How can you still wonder why our birth rates are low and that Singaporeans are too uptight. It’s all due to stress. Not the healthy kind of stress, but distress which leads to illness and injury.
I noticed that when I stayed beyond 9 pm it made my bosses treat me better and the next day when I left early (say 7pm!) I would get sarcastic remarks and unhappy glares. My boss expected me to put in the same hours as she did although I made only a fraction of her salary. And when I was there in the office at night, she would come in and give me even more work. When I left on time I would get called on the handphone and she would be displeased that I had left work early even though it was already a half hour after the official time off work. It made me feel really bad and incompetent even though I knew I was a hard worker. It was so bad for the self-esteem and I see so many of my friends going through that today. They do it till they can’t take it anymore and then have no choice, but to quit for their own mental well-being.
I did work in an American company where the boss encouraged us to leave on time and expressed that if 8 hours is not enough to get the work done than we are not working smart and I have to agree. We could negotiate deadlines and he only made us do what was truly important. Important and not just urgent. I wish this type of healthy work culture would permeate to all Singapore workplaces. And this won’t unless it comes from the top down. I am glad that most companies are officially on 5 day work weeks now, but I wish that did not mean much longer hours during the weekdays and uncompensated work hours during the weekends.
I HAVE been quite disturbed at the number of hours people put in at their workplace. Normal work hours start from 8.30am and usually end at 6pm. But more and more, people work till 7pm or 8pm before going home.
I am not against people working late but do spare a thought for the family. The reason people work hard is mainly because they want to provide for their families, but what is the point if they are not able to spend time with them?
Most companies stipulate that the official working hours are from 8.30am to 6pm, so employees should have every right to go back home after 6pm. Whatever work that cannot be finished should be left till the next working day.
Some may argue that their bosses would be unhappy about them leaving on time, but if that were the case, then why have official working hours?
A person’s ability to work effectively diminishes after so many hours of work, and frustration at the thought of not being able to spend time with the family will build up. All this can translate into low productivity.
No one is indispensable in the workplace, but a person’s family cannot live without him.
Let us be fair to our family members and loved ones, and stick to the official working hours and achieve a work-life balance. True joy comes from knowing one has fulfilled the needs of one’s family. Only then will one be able to fully focus on one’s work and contribute more effectively at the workplace.
For the family and one’s own well-being, let us work smart and leave the workplace on time.