Home singapore Over half of Singapore workers more sensitive to stress in 2022 compared to 2021 even as pandemic eased: Study

Over half of Singapore workers more sensitive to stress in 2022 compared to 2021 even as pandemic eased: Study

Over half of Singapore workers more sensitive to stress in 2022 compared to 2021 even as pandemic eased: Study
More than half of the Singapore respondents in a study said they feel more sensitive to stress in 2022 compared to 2021About two-thirds were also concerned that their career would be affected if their bosses knew of their mental health issuesThe findings were from an Asia-wide study that polled about 1,000 Singapore residents on their mental well-beingExperts said that added stressors of inflationary pressures and retrenchments in 2022 did not help health-wiseBoth employers and employees have to meet in the middle to tackle these post-Covid stressors, they added

By Justin Ong Published September 14, 2023 Updated September 14, 2023 Bookmark Bookmark Share WhatsApp Telegram Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

SINGAPORE — As the pandemic situation improved last year and Covid-19 restrictions started to ease, secondary school teacher Melvin expected his workload to ease as he would no longer be tasked to manage home-based learning that was put in place during the crisis. 

However, the 29-year-old, who wanted to go by a pseudonym because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said that this was far from the truth. 

With restrictions lifted, it also meant that there were now more responsibilities than during the pandemic, such as having to lead co-curricular activities and school camps, and plan overseas trips and activities that have resumed in full force. 

Even though these were expected of teachers before the pandemic, the difference now is that the school is pushing for technologically driven learning to still be a feature in classrooms, such as integrating lessons onto iPads, Melvin said.

“We had the time and space to try out and learn during the pandemic, but now we’re expected to do the pre-pandemic things at the pre-pandemic levels while also implementing these tech-infused things into our lessons.” 

Due to the added workload from adopting digital learning in the classrooms and organising school activities, Melvin said that his job became more stressful and he lost sleep over it.

However, instead of grumbling or confiding in his colleagues, he told himself that he was not alone in his struggle, and that his older colleagues were probably finding it harder to adapt. 

“When (my older colleagues) get exposed to the app, website or tool to try out, it’s like completely foreign,” he said. “So usually, I try to learn first and then go and help them.”

These tools include those used to integrate class curriculums into learning websites or applications.  

By the end of last year, the Covid-19 situation here had improved drastically compared to 2021. 

For instance, there was no longer a requirement for workplaces to have default work-from-home arrangements for their employees, and travel to most countries had resumed with little to no restrictions. 

With the pandemic and its multifold restrictions being put behind the general population, it might not be too far-fetched to assume that work life could become less stressful as “normal life” resumes. 

However, as Melvin’s example showed, this was not necessarily true. 


In Singapore, more than half of the workers surveyed in a study said that they felt more sensitive to stress in 2022 compared to 2021.

About two-thirds were concerned that their career would be affected if their bosses knew of their mental health issues

The study by global professional services Aon and health technology service provider Telus Health was released on Thursday (Sept 14).

It was done in November last year across 12 countries or jurisdictions in Asia and included findings from about 1,000 Singaporeans between the ages of 20 and 69. 

Commenting on the results, mental health advocates and career counsellors said it was not surprising that workers — especially younger ones — may be feeling more stressed even as the pandemic situation improved.

Ms Anthea Ong, founder of the WorkWell Leaders Workgroup, said: “The pandemic may be over but companies are facing mounting challenges of inflationary pressures, geopolitical tensions and business disruptions.”

The workgroup is a community of leaders from various companies and national agencies that champion workplace mental well-being.

“In times of economic uncertainty, businesses may feel compelled to downsize, which inevitably cause more mental health challenges with remaining staff members, while at the same time, cut spending on well-being programmes,” Ms Ong added. 


The survey findings of the employees, who were asked how they felt at the end of 2022 compared to 2021, were: 

52 per cent felt more sensitive to stress 49 per cent more often ended their work day feeling mentally or physically exhausted 44 per cent noticed that their colleagues were more sensitive to stress43 per cent said that their mental health was negatively affecting their work productivity 

On whether they would report their mental health issues to their employers, 64 per cent said they would be concerned that their career options would be limited if their bosses were aware of what they were experiencing. 

Each country was given a “mental health index score” out of 100 points, with a score up to 49 meaning the population is in distress, a score between 50 and 79 meaning it is strained, and a score above 80 being “optimal”. 

Singapore was ranked sixth out of 12 jurisdictions with 63.2 points, meaning it was strained, while the lowest score among the nations and jurisdictions polled was South Korea at 57.8. The highest was Indonesia at 69.4. 

The study also showed that overall, people in the youngest age band were more susceptible to mental health risk compared to older age groups. 

Those in the 20 to 29 age group had a mental health index score of 57.8, the lowest among the other age groups. The highest was for those aged 60 to 69, with a score of 70.7.

The report did not specify the age-group scores for Singapore. 


Career counsellors and mental health advocates said it came as no surprise that people, especially the youth, were feeling increased stress even as the pandemic situation got better. 

Given the inflationary pressures, business disruptions and geopolitical tensions, Ms Ong said that it could be even more pressurising and stressful on Generation Z employees, since they had likely started work during the pandemic.

Gen Zers are those born between 1998 and 2007, who would be in their teens and early 20s now.

“Many Gen Z employees who joined the workforce during Covid are struggling with what we call ‘permacrisis’ or a long period of instability, insecurity and suffering with no end in sight,” Ms Ong added. 

Agreeing, Mr Paul Heng, founder of Next Career Consulting Group, said that after the pandemic, many workers felt like they had to “double up” and catch up on lost time due to the disruptions. 

“With hybrid work arrangements being in place in many businesses, workers feel insecure when they are not ‘seen’ working in the office… This creates a need to work harder to compensate for the days not spent in the office,” he said. 

The phenomenon of increased stress from being “present” in the office was the case for one worker in her 20s, who spoke to TODAY on the condition of anonymity.

The worker in the financial sector said that her company switched quickly from a hybrid work arrangement to a full return to office within a couple of months. 

With the return to office, she felt like she was less independent and trusted to deliver her work, with her boss also beginning to micro-manage her more.

The commute to and from work also took away her free time that she otherwise had during the pandemic.  

It came to a point where she “couldn’t take it anymore”. So she quit her job earlier this year, as it was a preferable option to telling her superiors about her struggles.

“I didn’t think that anything would be done about it, and there was no point, because of the structure of the workplace,” she said.

She now has a new job in the same sector.


The experts said that both the employers and employees have to meet in the middle to navigate such post-Covid-19 work stress. 

On the employers’ part, Ms Ong said that they have to start seeing employee well-being as not just centred around work benefits such as days off or cash incentives, but also acknowledge mental health as something that requires “interventions” to better support workers. 

Such interventions can include: 

Setting a work culture where there is a dedicated mental health plan, and kickstarting communications and engagement channels on the topic with employees Having more flexible policies including mental health treatment, and marking out more areas in the office for employees to relax and rechargeTraining managers to better identity mental health conditions among employees, and kickstarting employee assistance programmes such as counselling 

Ms Ong, a former Nominated Member of Parliament who also founded mental health initiative SG Mental Health Matters, added that employees should recognise when a mental health problem becomes too big to handle and seek help. 

This can be done through creating a strong support system and, if necessary, getting help from professionals such as therapists and counsellors. 

“Most importantly, please know that you are not alone and feeling stressed out is not a personal failing,” she emphasised. 

She also said that daily routines may be adjusted to better improve one’s mental health. 

“They can also establish boundaries like setting aside time for loved ones and recharging through exercise, mindfulness, journalling and walking outdoors.”

She noted that many young workers may have problems communicating their struggles with their employers, such as the example mentioned earlier of the woman in her 20s working in the finance sector.

“Many individuals — especially those early in their career — may not feel able or empowered to effect change in the workplace,” Ms Ong said.  

“However, if one has a good relationship with a supervisor, they can consider having an honest conversation about their stressors to re-evaluate workload and targets.”