Workers in Singapore are not having it all together and are showing signs of stress, according to a new research by Willis Towers Watson. Its 2017 Benefits Trends Survey found that almost half, or 44% of local employers identified stress as the number one health issue and as much as 60% admitted to having above average or high levels of stress about work.
Despite all the findings, only 27% of employers are taking action to help their staff reduce stress about work. Apart from work related stress, findings worldwide showed that financial insecurity can also contribute to stress.
The findings also showed that 27% of employees in Singapore are living paycheck to paycheck, while worldwide, half of employees are worried about their financial status, a rise of 4% from two years. What’s devastating is that 3 in 10 employees globally expect to work till age 70 or beyond, while in Singapore, the figure is 15%.
The survey also showed a discrepancy between what the employers and employees think. About 53% of employers said their health care initiatives have encouraged their staff to live healthier lifestyles, though only 34% of employees agreed with that statement about employee health.
Although there is an increasing number of employers putting in more efforts in improving their health and well-being programs, 40% of them revealed that they do not have an established health and well-being strategy.
Worldwide, more than 70% of employees said health management is top priority, while more than 80% of employers said increasing employee engagement in health and well-being is a top priority for them.
In another 2019 Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey, more than 90% of Singaporean workers surveyed (502 residents) reported feeling stressed, a figure that’s much higher than the worldwide average of 84%.
Out of this number, 13% said their stress is unmanageable. Also, 55% of Singaporean respondents noticed their colleagues’ stress and 90% of them agreed that stress has a serious impact on the workplace and can lowered morale or lead to resignation.
Another survey from Qualtrics (6,000 full-time workers worldwide were surveyed, including a significant number in Singapore) finds that stress levels among employees in Singapore who are 55 and older are the highest (29%), followed by those between 35-44 years, as these are the ages where they enter more senior positions and take on more responsibilities.
Stress About Work
Workplace stress is an inevitable part of life, and it is not always considered a bad thing. If you can manage your stress properly, it can actually help you focus, get energised, and keep yourself in tip-top condition.
However, when job stress becomes chronic, it takes its toll on our bodies, minds, and spirits and can cause serious problems and affect every aspect of your life including your physical health, relationships, career, and your mental health, leading to depression, anxiety, and other mood swings or disorders.
Common Causes of Stress In the Workplace
Fear of being laid off is one of the common sources of stress. One other source of stress is the pressure to perform to meet rising expectations but with no increase in job satisfaction but with increasingly heavy workload, and also the pressure to work optimally with unrealistic deadlines or tight deadlines, with more overtime because of staff reduction due to budget cuts. Finally, a lack of control over how you do your work is also a contributing stress factor at work.
Stress At Work – Initial Warning Signs
If you feel overwhelmed at work, you’re likely to lose confidence in yourself. That can lead to anger, irritability, or withdrawal.
Other signs of job stress include experiencing apathy, loss of interest, loss of appetite or trouble sleeping. Fatigue and problems concentrating may also be caused by work stress. Muscle tension or headaches are common side effects of working too much and too long, while stomach problems and sex drive loss are more related to lack of exercise due to work stress.
Workers under pressure could also suffer from other physical diseases such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and musculoskeletal disorders. There could also be adverse health behaviours or the manifestation of certain mental health conditions such as depression and hallucinations.
Tips to Protect Yourself from Stress About Work
There are many ways that you can do to reduce the impact of stress on your emotional health, improve your job satisfaction and increase your overall well-being in your work and personal life.
Tip Number 1: Reach Out to Someone
Tell someone close to you, such as a family, a relative or a close friend about your problems or work-related stress. Letting it all out can give you sympathy and support, and can be a very effective way of helping you to reduce chronic stress at work or in your everyday life. That someone only have to be a good listener.
You can also turn to your fellow colleagues for support about workplace stress, to help you navigate the negative effects of job stress. Reach out to employee assistance programs or stress management programs at work to help you in a difficult situation, if needed. There could also be colleagues, especially those in human resources, who had attended stress management training before, and they could offer some advice or extend a helping hand too.
Also, it helps to have a solid network of friends and family members who can help you manage stress be it at work or in your personal life. Start to build new friendships, such as people with common interests by taking new courses, volunteering at charities or even joining clubs or societies. Such satisfying friendships built over common purposes can give you immense pleasure and significantly help you to manage stress.
Tip Number 2: Know Your Priority
Awareness about job stress is good, as you would tend to find ways to manage your stress and one of the best ways is to understand your priority, and start to take control of your time management to regain a sense of control, especially if you have excessive workloads.
Create a balanced schedule for work, family life, social life and other fun pursuits. Leave earlier in the morning for work, or take shorter breaks throughout your day for walking, chatting with someone or just closing your eyes to relax a while. All these will help you recharge and become less stressed and more productive.
Tip Number 3: Get Enough Sleep
Always ensure that you get a good night’s sleep if you have to work the next day, because if not, it would definitely affect your work’s productivity and your creativity and ability to focus.
Improve your sleep quality by making critical changes to your lifestyle routines, such as sleeping and waking up at the same time daily and watching your diet in the day time. Strive to have at least 8 hours of sleep per night, which is the optimal amount of sleep an adult needs in order to function at their best. Also, place your digital devices such as mobile phones, laptops or tablets away from you when you sleep, as the light or radiation from these devices can disrupt your sleep.
An hour before bedtime, do not participate in stimulating or stressful activities such as exercise, work or getting involved in a meeting, but instead, listen to some soothing music or read a book.
Tip Number 4: Exercise and Nutrition
Don’t neglect your physical health – support it with plenty of exercise as much as possible. For instance, aerobic exercise that increases your heart rate is an excellent method to improve your mood and put you in a calm state of mind. Other forms of exercise, such as running, walking, swimming or dancing is great for your nervous system. As a guide, it is good to get at least half an hour of exercise per day.
Next, complement exercise with good nutrition to make yourself resilient to stress. Start small, and by starting small, you can increase your mood and energy, and reduce your stress. For example, start by taking small and frequent meals to help maintain your blood sugar level (low blood sugar makes one feel anxious and irritable), energy and focus, and hence prevent mood swings and manage work-related stress.
Stressful situations can affect your mood and make you crave for foods such as sweets, desserts and cakes, but you should reduce your intake of such foods as they can further aggravate your mood. Also avoid foods such as caffeine, trans fats and foods with chemical preservatives or hormones. You should eat more foods with Omega-3 fatty acids to boost your mood, such as fatty fish such as mackerel, anchovies, sardines or salmon, walnuts, flaxseeds and seaweed.
Lastly, do not smoke or drink as it will lead to a higher level of anxiety.
Tip Number 5: Break Bad Habits that Cause Work-Related Stress
Excessive stress can make chronic work stress worse as it can fill you with negative thoughts and behaviours and even cause mental health conditions. But if you can break these bad habits, you should be able to manage your stress better and emerge stronger.
If you are a perfectionist, do not set unrealistic goals for yourself as you are just putting yourself in more stressful situations if you fall short of your own expectations. Just tell yourself that you will do your best and that’s more than enough.
Always focus on positivity, and every time a negative thought appears in your mind, try intentionally to replace it with a positive one (keep a list of such positivity in your mind or a notebook close by, if possible). It can be about your work, fellow colleagues or bosses, or even some small achievements in your work or personal life that had ever brought you much joy.
If you ever feel uncertain or helpless about your job or your job insecurity, or if stressful situations at work are at an all-time high, or you are aware of some workplace stressors, be proactive and talk to your employer about it, as if employees are healthy and happy, they are more productive.
Finally, take time off if you really have to, or if there is excessive exposure to job stress. Go for a holiday, or ask your employer for a short leave-of-absence to temporarily remove yourself from stressful situations at work and then use the time to recharge, re-energise and come back refreshed and calm, ready to take on the next milestone in your worklife.
If you’re feeling stressed at work, just know that you’re not alone. Find someone to talk to, or call these counselling hotlines.