Almost 1 in 2 in S'pore stressed out by thought of doing nothing: Survey

A 30m-long series of swings has been set up along Palawan Beach on Sentosa as part of the Make Time campaign to encourage people to take breaks. PHOTO: SENTOSA DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
A 30m-long series of swings has been set up along Palawan Beach on Sentosa as part of the Make Time campaign to encourage people to take breaks. PHOTO: SENTOSA DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION

Experts advise marrying work and life, taking breaks and thinking of others' welfare

Taking a break does not seem to come easy for stressed-out Singapore residents.

Of 600 Singaporeans and permanent residents polled in a recent survey, 31 per cent said they did not know how to relax and 48 per cent - almost one in two - said they were stressed out by the thought of doing nothing.

This is despite 52 per cent of respondents saying they felt stuck in a daily routine and 74 per cent wishing they could spend more time with their families and loved ones.

The survey, commissioned by Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) and conducted online in April, also found that excluding mealtimes, people spent an average of 2.8 hours of leisure time a week with family and friends, or just over 1 per cent of a week.

Experts discussing the findings at a media event yesterday said that making time for oneself and family requires deliberate adjustments.

Dr Daniel Fung, chairman of the Institute of Mental Health's medical board, said people often talk about work-life balance as though there must be separate times for work and life, but it would be more useful to create harmony incorporating both aspects.

If finding a balance means not thinking about work at all during family time, then it will always be a struggle, he said at the event at FOC Sentosa.

"Create a situation where while you're at work, you can also think about your family," he added, though he also noted that some people still need a more structured separation of various aspects of their lives.

 
 
 
 

Taking breaks can also help in the work aspect of life, said National University of Singapore (NUS) sociologist Tan Ern Ser.

"Sometimes we feel that we have to have our foot on the pedal all the time and that will bring about productivity. I don't think that's true. When you take breaks, when you're rested... When you have enough sleep, you'll be more productive."

NUS assistant professor for geography Sin Harng Luh said that if everyone were to consider the well-being of those under their charge, it would go some way towards enabling people to unwind.

"I make choices which value my students' free time. I don't expect them to read 20 articles before the next class because I think their free time is very important as well," she said.

"If, as a society, bosses could have that kind of mentality, then it would change things very rapidly."

The idea of work-life harmony has come to the fore recently.

Earlier this month, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that a citizens' panel will be launched to gather ideas on how to improve work-life harmony.

In response to the survey findings, SDC launched a campaign called Make Time yesterday.

The campaign includes a 30m-long series of swings on Palawan Beach, social media videos and a billboard on the Ayer Rajah Expressway, asking "Do you believe in life after work?"

SDC chief marketing officer Lynette Ang said: "We always think that there's more time. (We say), when I make enough money, when I own the dream car, the dream house, then I'll relax and do other things.

"But you never know how much time you have, so we want to challenge people to make time - now."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2019, with the headline 'Almost 1 in 2 in S'pore stressed out by thought of doing nothing: Survey'. Print Edition | Subscribe