Urgent need to tackle burnout

Mr Abel Ang wrote a helpful and honest article on burnout (To the brink of burnout and back, Aug 11).

The recommendations to prevent burnout are not easily implemented in an increasingly networked world where the need to be on call 24/7 is required.

But first, there should be an acknowledgement of the problem - not only from workers but also from management - and then the courage to implement changes to prevent such a "crisis" from being the norm.

One area to take note of is to change the culture in our public and private institutions.

As we celebrate our 54th year of independence, we can be proud that our nation has achieved No. 1 in many areas.

However, we must not focus only on the achievements and ignore the costs.

The fact that our nation ranked rather high among nations which have poor work-life balance, and the fact that the number of suicides is increasing, should point to the need for intervention in the prevention of burnout and other mental problems among our people (S'pore ranks 32 out of 40 in index on work-life balance, Aug 8; Record 19 teenage boys committed suicide last year, July 30).

The need to achieve and meet a deadline or key performance indicators at all costs and to present a good image to those in authority, minus the care, concern and compassion for workers and subordinates, is not a culture worth preserving.

Micromanagement at every level, and correction and re-correction of work done for fear of making mistakes, constitute inefficiency, if not entirely a waste of time.

And thinking highly of only those who are "bootlickers" and ignoring feedback from those who truly mean well does not augur well for an organisation in the long run.

I am appalled to hear my patients who suffer a breakdown telling me that they cannot fulfil and complete a work task given the time constraints.

I have heard some tell me that they are still trying to clear all the e-mails in the previous months which were designated as "urgent" or "immediate".

We need to acknowledge that there is a problem.

As a doctor who sees many workers at all levels of the organisational hierarchy, I have no doubt that the problem of burnout is real. It affects all strata of society.

Do we have the courage and compassion to change the situation for the better?

Quek Koh Choon (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2019, with the headline 'Urgent need to tackle burnout'. Print Edition | Subscribe