Increased work hours, burnout, rising stress levels. If you’re planning to quit your job sometime this year, you aren’t alone.

According to job portal Indeed, one in four Singaporeans are planning to leave their current job within the first six months of 2022. Half of the 1,002 workers surveyed were also unsure if they would stay in their current job.

This is part of a global phenomenon — dubbed the “Great Resignation” — where thousands are planning to leave, or have left, their current jobs since 2021 in search of greener pastures.

However, what is spurring this seemingly-impending tsunami of resignation letters in Singapore, and what can companies do to prevent their employees from joining the growing wave?

What is fueling the Great Resignation?

singapore worker mrt Image Credit: Edgar Su via Reuters

According to the survey by Indeed, the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated reasons for leaving. Half of the employees found themselves disliking their jobs, and 46 per cent also found themselves with increased stress levels over the pandemic.

Yeo Chuen Chuen, founder of ACESENCE Agile Leadership Coaching and Training, said that the pandemic and shifts in work arrangements have revealed various unsightly traits in companies that may push employees to leave.

Mass resignations also tend to take place in environments where overworking and unreasonably high expectations have become the norm. In some manner, such are the signs of toxic workplaces. When work has become a pressure cooker, it’s difficult to sustain.

– Yeo Chuen Chuen, Founder of ACESENCE Agile Leadership Coaching and Training

According to a separate study by The Straits Times, one in two employees have clocked in more working hours since the pandemic started, with a third putting in more than two hours extra daily.

Industries such as healthcare have also seen an increased number of resignations as increased workload and stress put a strain on employees’ mental health. In 2021, 1,500 healthcare employees left the industry in the first half of the year, a stark increase from the annual 2,000 resignations received pre-pandemic.

The industry outlook has also influenced resignation numbers as employees feel that their future remains bleak. This has been especially so for the travel and hospitality industries despite some “bright sparks” in the past few months, said Shirley Tee, senior manager at the School of Business Management in Nanyang Polytechnic.

While Vaccinated Travel Lanes have provided some relief for the industry, the volatility of these agreements has kept the industry on its toes.

She further noted that the pandemic has also shifted employees’ perceptions of what their day-to-day working life should look like.

For some, time saved from the commute to the office has been a huge factor in their preference for work from home arrangements. But for others, longer working hours from blurred lines may influence individuals to resign.

work from home Image Credit: HRM Asia

“As we start treating the COVID-19 virus as endemic, some companies are starting to go back to in-office work arrangements,” said Tee.

“Having lived with this new norm for the past two years, going back to the previous work arrangements might be unsettling for some employees, particularly for those who prefer flexible working arrangements.”

Aside from wanting the flexibility to work anywhere, Jolin Nguyen, AYP Group’s Managing Director, added that many employees are also seeking more purpose-driven work as they reevaluate the role of work in their lives.

“Given the current situation, we are in an employee-driven job market… (Employees) feel empowered that they should now take control of their work and their personal lives,” said Nguyen.

“The impact that remote working had on people, alongside their reconsideration about what mattered most to them, are the most common driving factors (for increased resignations).”

More than just replacing lost employees

While companies can simply hire more employees to make up for resignations, experts that spoke to Vulcan Post warned that it may cost companies more.

“If your high performers who have been highly engaged and committed are throwing in the towel, then it’s a bad sign. It could mean that their faith in the organisation has been eroded to a point of no return,” said Yeo.

“Your succession could be disrupted massively, there’s a significant loss of knowledge and know-how, and it would damage the company in more ways than you initially thought.”

Nguyen also warned that aside from a direct impact on company revenue and profitability, organisations that do not act upon mass resignations may cause a “rolling effect”.

“With many people leaving the organisation, that would lead to low workplace morale and eventually influence other employees to leave. Organisations will have an even more difficult time to attract and retain talents,” she added.

To mitigate the impact of the Great Resignation, organisations need to take action to better care of employees’ well-being.

Companies will need to acknowledge that there is no one-size-fits-all benefit scheme and they need to customise benefits to cater to the different needs of workers. While a bigger paycheck can be attractive, people are still likely to value other factors like flexible work arrangements.

– Shirley Tee, Senior Manager, School of Business Management, Nanyang Polytechnic

What are some companies doing about it?

great resignation empty office Image Credit: Emily Elconin via Reuters

According to Yusho Liu, co-founder and CEO of Coinhako, the company’s turnover has been low — it has retained most of its staff and tripled its headcount in 2021.

He attributes this to various efforts the cryptocurrency exchange has in place, including weekly sharing sessions and anonymous open surveys for employees to provide their feedback to improve the company’s protocols and work culture.

It also offers flexible work arrangements, put in place medical and self-care benefits, opportunities for employees to upskill through webinars and industry events, among other initiatives.

“We will continue to embolden our employees to take charge of their work-life balance and to instil a sense of ownership in our staff by actively listening and engaging with them,” said Liu.

Telehealth provider Doctor Anywhere (DA) also offers flexible work arrangements and implements various initiatives to keep employees satisfied.

doctor anywhere office Image Credit: Doctor Anywhere

The startup recently announced the opening of its new office to accommodate 70 per cent of its workforce and plans to hire over 200 staff in 2022.

“We are also placing an equal focus to develop talent internally through on-the-job experiences, an onboarding program for new hires and more learning opportunities through DA Academy,” said Shux Mazur, Vice-President of People and Culture at Doctor Anywhere.

“A key focus for us is in developing people manager capabilities as this layer of management often has the most direct impact on our people and whether they have a good experience with us or not.”

Aside from these initiatives, Nguyen said organisations should better engage their workforce by reallocating resources.

“As companies reevaluate how they are operating and spending to drive new efficiencies, companies can tap on the contingent workforce to help them operate more efficiently as well as to address any skill gaps within the organisation,” she said.

To prevent burnout and to ensure employees feel purpose-driven, Nguyen also suggests companies to streamline workflows with investments in technology and outsourcing mundane tasks, so that employers can focus on more valuable work to help grow the business.

Great Reshuffle — the positive to the Great Resignation?

Like most companies, we have seen some attrition over time with this workforce. This has also provided us with an opportunity for us to relook at the type of talent we want at a startup like DA.

The Great Resignation is a good reminder for us to keep innovating our attraction and retention strategies to hire, develop and keep good talent within DA, and challenge us to cast our net to a wider pool of talent in Singapore and around the world.

– Shux Mazur, Vice-President of People and Culture at DA

According to Yeo, some companies view the Great Resignation as a Great Reshuffle as individuals find themselves in more suitable positions for their wellbeing.

Movements in the workforce can also bring in “new ideas and fresh air” to some economies, she noted. Aside from prior knowledge and experiences, individuals may have more passion for their new jobs that can influence an organisation’s productivity.

Company efforts to retain its employees is also a “great opportunity for employers to build a more future-proof workplace by implementing changes to their workflows or overall strategies,” said Nguyen.

“This could result in a paradigm shift in the thinking of both workers and companies to reach a common ground,” Tee added.