1 in 5 S’pore employees work more than eleven hours daily: survey

Singapore workers are working harder than ever with one in five clocking eleven or more hours daily, according to a survey.

Out of 95 employees polled in an online global survey by international business company Regus, 19 per cent of them said they have worked eleven or more hours a day.

This is 9 percentage points higher than the global average and 5 percentage points more than Japan, which took the second spot. Most Singapore respondents were professionals, while the 19 per cent comprised of senior corporate professionals and business owners.

The month-long survey held in September cuts across 85 countries and interviewed 12,000 employees in total.

It also found that 31 per cent of Singapore respondents worked for nine to eleven hours daily, far lower than Hong Kong’s 48 per cent and the global average of 38 per cent.

Almost half of the local workers polled said they have taken work home more than three times a week compared to 43 per cent globally.

Michelle Lim, chief operating officer of the JobsCentral Group said this tendency to over-work arises from Singapore employees’ career-driven attitude and values such as being hard-working and competitive in the workplace.

But she noted that since the survey polled mostly senior managers and business owners, it is not surprising to find that they put in many extra hours as they usually have larger responsibilities and are well-compensated for it.

“However, anecdotally, we also hear of many rank and file workers who have to put in many hours of over-time on a regular basis. I think in many cases, it’s an issue of management’s expectations not being matched with what the workers can reasonably achieve,” she pointed out.

Regus regional vice-president of the Asia-Pacific region William Willems noted that working longer hours could be detrimental to the long term health of Singapore workers and this study “finds a clear blurring of the line between work and home”.

Over-working, he added, could damage “overall productivity as workers drive themselves too hard and become disaffected, depressed or even physically ill”.

When asked what can be done to ensure a work-life balance for such workers, Lim said that this will depend on the company’s work culture. The management must believe in having work-life balance and not penalise workers who seek such a balance, she said.

“Work demands need to be reasonable and managers need to respect an employee's right to rest undisturbed and maintain a sane life outside of the office. In some cases, a bad work-life balance can be due to inefficiencies.

“If that is the case, it would help if the manager can monitor excess work hours and take active steps to work out a more efficient way of doing things,” she noted.

Meanwhile, Willems suggested that businesses could also allow employees to work from locations closer to home. This, he said, will give them more control over their time, lessen their stress from poor work-life balance and groom more productive, committed and healthy staff.