Forum: Up to people to make enlightened choices about work

The article, "It's urgent to make sense of overwork", by contributor Paddy Rangappa in The Sunday Times on May 1 provided me with food for thought and was timely, especially since it was featured on Labour Day.

We seem to have been sucked into the cult of overwork, with chief executives touting it as a badge of honour to be flaunted.

The Covid-19 pandemic has served only to fuel this type of work culture, with the prevalent use of virtual events, hosting platforms and other apps holding workers in thrall.

Work-life balance is seen in a pejorative light, something only slackers or those disloyal to the company would embrace. Working beyond one's stipulated hours is a given. After all, one's rice bowl is granted by one's employer.

A recent online poll conducted by mental health advocacy organisation Silver Ribbon has revealed that work-life balance and a sense of fulfilment matter more than remuneration to workers (Work-life balance, sense of fulfilment key to workers: Poll, May 6). It is also to the employers' benefit to take heed of the findings, for this will help them attract and retain staff.

Mr Rangappa's call to business leaders to rein in the excesses and stop demanding a sense of urgency is not going to work if employees allow themselves to be trampled on. Toeing the line and giving in to fear will serve only to embolden employers. Unfortunately, the fear is very real for some and, out of self-preservation, they have no choice but to come to heel.

Young first-time workers may be particularly vulnerable and assume that such a work culture is the norm. Thus, the setting up of a National Trades Union Congress task force to help this group of young workers aged 25 and below (NTUC to set up task force to look at needs of young people entering workforce, April 30) is a step in the right direction.

While some form of intervention from the labour movement is welcome, the onus should likewise be on the individual to make enlightened choices.

Take charge of your life by staying true to your own principles and, ideally, live with less. Avoid being shackled to a job that does not spark joy, and strive towards achieving financial independence.

Such personal goals are not easy to fulfil, but for the sake of one's mental and emotional well-being, they are well worth working towards.

Marietta Koh

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