New keyboard, check. New headset, check. New fancy SecretLab chair, check. But I’m sure many of us are realising that the work-from-home default arrangement is not as heavenly as we thought a year ago. Of course, workers aren’t exactly missing the full 9-6 workweek, jostling with peak hour crowds on public transport. But for many – especially if you are a parent, the endless loop of work, housework, cooking, cleaning… is probably starting to take its toll.
In the past year, to control the spread of the outbreak, the work from home default arrangement has become somewhat of a norm for many of us. It seems like as long as majority of our population is not vaccinated, the ‘traditional’ workplace will have to evolve. With the current arrangement, it seems even harder to draw a boundary between work, rest and play. Studies have revealed that homebound employees are burning out – facing what’s known as ‘pandemic fatigue’. Working arrangements under the pandemic have resurfaced the importance of looking after employees’ mental wellbeing.
In an online survey conducted by Silver Ribbon in April last year, one in four experienced “low mood, anxiety and loneliness more than usual”.
Zoom, Microsoft Teams on Loop
A previously unthinkable number of Singaporean workers work in an almost exclusively virtual working environment.
Think Zoom, MS Teams on loop. For many of us, the Covid-19 crisis has shoved our work lives under the same roof that we rest. “I escape to office a few times a week,” a friend shared recently. How ironic. While many workers appreciate the safety and flexibility to work from home, burnout is real. However, it is not to say that we can’t emerge from this crisis with both happier, and more productive employees and organisations!
Work Better Even Under The Work-from-home Default Arrangement
If you haven’t by now, you might want to set up a proper workstation, or a dedicated workspace. While it’s tempting, don’t work from your couch or worse, bed OK? If you have the luxury of a spare study room, great, if not a nice lil corner in your apartment or balcony would do nicely too! Psst, here are 5 gadgets under $100 that you may want to consider to improve your work-from-home experience.
Another tip to be more productive is to plan for the day. Write down your to-do list and avoid distractions – read: TV. Also, remember to take little breaks – just like how you pop out to the pantry for a chat or coffee with your co-workers for tea breaks, you should take little breaks in between meetings. Get a drink, work in some light stretches, sneak in 5-10 minutes of simple yoga moves at your desk. It is perfect for quick noon perk-up.
The adoption of the work-from-home default arrangement last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic has also put a spotlight on the mental stressors faced by workers here with the blurring of work-life boundaries. As such, building workers’ mental resilience is critical, stressed Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad at the launch of this year’s National Workplace Safety and Health Campaign. Recently, twelve employers were also given awards for creating mentally friendly and healthy working environments by mental health non-profit organisation, Silver Ribbon.
“Mental health is just as important as physical health and it can have a significant impact on workers’ productivity.”
Employee burnout can have detrimental effects on mental health, leading to actual deterioration of physical health, and lost productivity. The NTUC Singapore had also pushed for a Work-Life Harmony policy to be included in the Tripartite Advisory on Mental Well-being at Workplaces issued in November 2020. The advisory provides practical tips on how to keep mentally resilient with the work-from-home default arrangement, and encourages employers to provide clarity on after-hours work communication.
Labour MP Melvin Yong also shared on the right to disconnect to guarantee protected time for employees to rest and recharge under the work-from-home default arrangement. In a Facebook post last month, he urged affected workers to approach the NTUC and the U PME Centre if they require assistance on any workplace matters, including burnout.
If you know of co-workers who need support during this stressful time, you can also direct them to:
National Care Hotline: 1800 202 6868
Samaritans of Singapore Hotline: 1800 221 4444
Institute of Mental Health’s Helpline: 6389 2222