A 2019 study by tech company Kisi found Singapore ranked 32nd out of 40 cities on the work-life balance list.
Singapore was also the second most overworked city among the 40 on the list.
Another study found that almost 92 percent of the 502 respondents were stressed from work, 13 percent stated that the stress was “uncontrollable”.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the problem could become even more common for some, as working from home has become the norm for almost half a year.
Work days turn into dinners and nights, and it can be difficult to finish work if the chimes of a new email keep getting your attention.
The fixed-hour work problem was highlighted by a high profile incident involving former actress Sharon Au, who moved to Paris from Singapore two years ago.
Her colleagues in France reported her to HR because she had contacted them outside of office hours about work-related matters.
In France there are laws that give employees the right to leave work. This includes avoiding receiving emails or text messages outside of office hours.
This begs the question: can Singapore implement such laws to protect the time of our stressed workers?
Maintain a competitive economy
Image credit: Bloomberg
Last week, senior minister of state for labor, Zaqy Mohamad, said the passage of laws protecting working hours may be "too rigid".
Many Singapore workers are employed in companies that cover different time zones, which could make it difficult to implement such laws.
Many global companies have their regional headquarters in Singapore. Sometimes the time difference requires employees to answer business emails or calls outside of work hours.
– Linda Teo, Country Manager for recruitment company ManpowerGroup Singapore, in an interview with TodayOnline
A 2019 survey by recruitment agency Michael Page found that 70 percent of Singaporeans responded to work calls and emails outside of office hours.
The majority of them did so because they have responsibilities that require that they be attainable.
This is also directly related to the competitive nature of the Singapore economy.
In June of this year, it was reported that Singapore retained its top position as the world's most competitive economy in the IMD World Competitiveness Ranking.
The ranking "analyzes countries' ability to create wealth" and found that Singapore's strong reputation is based on "robust international trade and investment, employment and labor market policies".
Because Singapore is such a competitive economy, "executives often expect an immediate response from their employees when they need something done," said Linda Teo, country manager for Manpower Group.
Manpower is one of Singapore's core competencies and the introduction of regulations like the “right to segregation” could potentially undermine the country's competitive advantage.
Singapore's workaholic culture
Photo credit: ASEAN Today
In addition to long working hours, Singaporeans also have fewer days off compared to countries like Germany with an average of 30 vacation days.
But why do Singaporeans work so hard?
Erman Tan, former president of the Singapore Human Resources Institute, told the South China Morning Post that it was "work culture and work behavior."
The Singaporeans have long advocated diligence, hard work and resilience as a sure path to success.
This rhetoric stays the same in most workplaces and workers, where cultures are mostly about performance.
Some Singaporeans may feel that if they worked less, they would lose out to colleagues in terms of advancement opportunities.
Achieve work-life balance
Photo credit: Gov.sg.
The compatibility of work and family is important in every society.
Enforcement of the “right to separation” laws could also hinder Singaporeans who prefer flexibility and do not want to work between 9am and 6pm.
Rather than implementing laws immediately, the government has issued a mental health recommendation due in the coming months.
Singaporean employers are currently advised to make efforts to ensure the mental wellbeing of employees and to refer them to outside help when needed.
It is unlikely that the Singapore government will implement "right to segregation" laws in the near future.
Ultimately, it is up to employers to build a culture that does not require workers to be available any time of the day.
Selected image source: HealthHub