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Overcoming stress with kindness

May 21, 2014

ASSOCIATE Professor Chong Siow Ann’s commentary (“Work, stress and burnout”; last Friday) cited a Health Promotion Board study which found that one in four workers here admitted to being “highly stressed”.

This is not surprising as Singaporeans work some of the longest hours among workers in the world’s most developed countries, according to a study by Dutch researchers. Singapore’s average of 2,287 hours per year is much higher than Australia’s (1,699), Japan’s (1,706) or the United States’ (1,703), and is behind only Hong Kong’s (2,344).

In a 2012 JobsCentral survey, 60 per cent of respondents reported that they stayed in the office for more than an hour after work at least three days a week, while one in three took work home to complete.

Prof Chong said burnout comprises a combination of “emotional exhaustion, detachment and a low sense of accomplishment”.

In a 2012 Gallup survey on workplace engagement in 142 countries, Singapore’s ratio of “disengaged workers”, at 76 per cent, was one of the highest. This means the majority of Singaporeans are showing up at work every day but not feeling emotionally invested in what they do.

Globally, disengagement caused by stress at work accounts for some US$300 billion (S$375 billion) in lost productivity and related health costs.

We agree with Prof Chong that reclaiming a sense of meaning in our work would help in removing the sense of detachment and drudgery.

In addition, we can learn to be kind to ourselves. Workers who maintain a positive attitude, commit to career and personal goals, and take care of their body and mind are better able to persevere and triumph in the face of stress-inducing work challenges.

Simple acts of kindness to colleagues, including greeting one another cheerfully, smiling more often, and saying “thanks” to one another are known to reduce work stress.

When kindness is rooted in an organisation’s culture, it will lead to greater synergy, more fulfilling working relationships and a happier work environment.

The Singapore Kindness Movement seeks to help address the problem of stress-related disengagement by offering resources to improve graciousness through our [email protected] programme in the workplace.

Dr William Wan
General Secretary
Singapore Kindness Movement

First published in The Straits Times – May 21, 2014

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