Work-Life Balance In Singapore: Is It Possible?

work life balance

I quit my S$114,000 job in 2011 and have never looked back since. Back then, I had no issues with work-life balance simply because I had “no life” at all. As a salesperson in a training company, I often had to work on weekends, and late into the night on weekdays when there were (free) previews for the training programmes. But that would have been fine, had it not been for the numerous phonecalls and SMSes I received.

The volume of those calls and SMSes reached the point whereby I had to own TWO handphones, just so I can switch one off when I get home. Only then was I spared the torment of having customers call me at 10pm or give me a “morning call” at 7am. Some people just do not adhere to the usual 9am to 5pm “office hours”. Probably they think that just because they are awake, everyone else should be too. Also, I would get calls when I am overseas on a holiday. I’m thanking my lucky stars that those days are over. But old habits die hard – I still refuse to switch on my handphone while overseas. No calls are supposed to disrupt my holiday. Everything and everyone can wait till I get back. Really.

My manager was also a pain to work with as he jolly well KNEW that I can work from home, as all I need is a phone. BUT, he insisted that I come to the office every single day. Perhaps this was so he could keep an eye on me and ensure I am doing the work I say I am doing, and to maintain harmony within the office and prevent my colleagues from wondering why I could have the luxury of working from home. My manager before him was more understanding: As long as the work got done, it didn’t matter whether I was in the office or not.

There was no “fixed” time for me to reach the office each day, and I was free to leave when my work was done. So I’d sometimes head to the gym first before going to the office.

When colleagues started seeing me come in with a shoebag, they (and my manager) began making strange remarks such as “Oh, you’ve gone to the gym again?” as if I’d stolen a cookie from the pantry. I eventually started feeling guilty (strangely enough) about going to the gym!

~ Fast Forward 3 years ~

I now own just ONE handphone. I visit the gym twice a week. I work from home, and anywhere in the world. And I am happy! ๐Ÿ™‚

I no longer have to pretend to be busy in the office, nor wait till a suitable timing before I knock off work so my colleagues don’t think I am sneaking off early. It was quite ridiculous actually, come to think of it.

These days, I plan for my holidays without having to apply for leave (I can take off tomorrow, or any other day actually). And I can give myself an ‘off day’ anytime. I don’t mean to make you envious. ๐Ÿ˜€ So, what can YOU do if you are employed and struggling to work out some kind of work-life balance?

Here are some tried-and-tested ways:

1) Leave work in the office, and do not bring it home.

If you have to get a second handphone like I did, then do it. Take your mind off work when you step into your home, because family time is way more precious than time spent at work so get your priorities right.

2) Learn to say ‘No’

Don’t take on an extra assignment just because you feel bad about saying ‘no’ to your manager. If your already-heavy workload just doubled because a colleague went on leave (maternity, holiday, or otherwise), let your supervisor know that you can’t put in extra hours on top of the over-time hours you are already putting in. The company just has to hire extra help.

As having the ability to work from home and flexible working hours are among the top 5 Singaporean employee wishes, it would be nice if employers heeded NTUCโ€™s call for all employees to have the right to ask for flexible work arrangements.

3) Schedule “me” time

Ensure you have at least a day off each week for you to relax and recharge. If this is absolutely not possible currently, then at least schedule 10 to 15 minutes every morning for some meditation, or yoga, or just quiet time. It’ll work wonders, trust me.

4) Get help / support

Don’t try to juggle too many things at once. If you start feeling that you’d really like to have 8 arms instead of 2 in order to cope with everything you need to do, then it is a clear signal that you have too much on your plate. Get help. Can someone else in the family send the kids to school instead, so at least you can grab some breakfast? Could the clothes be sent to the laundromat so you can have some extra time to sit with the children and help with their revision, or just to chat? You get the drift.

5) Avoid time wasters

If you take note of the time you spend each day on the various activities you get involved in, you may notice that some of them are pure time-wasters, such as overly long lunches with colleagues (mainly for gossip), logging on to Facebook too often, checking your emails too often (instead of at scheduled times), etc. Track how you are spending your time, and you’ll find that you actually can stop wishing that you have more than 24 hours in a day.

6) Schedule time for exercise – Don’t trade your health for wealth in your youth, only to trade wealth for health in old age.

yoga in the office

Besides its obvious health benefits, exercise also allows you time to care for yourself. There are some who will want to protest at this point, and claim that they just do not have time for exercise. But there are exercise videos on Youtube, which can be completed in 10 minutes or less, such as some of those on Blogilates’ channel.

7) Recharge your batteries whenever possible

You know best what you need to get recharged. Some people go for a walk, while others go for tea with their best friends. What works for you?

Do not feel guilty about taking off when there’s work to be done. It is actually in your interest to prevent a burn out before it happens. Besides, when you come back recharged and rejuvenated, you’ll be even more productive at work, so do not feel bad about taking a break when necessary!

Ultimately, you have to do work that you enjoy. Too many people feel ‘stuck’ in jobs that they dislike, simply because it pays the bills. But as that saying goes, if you spend one minute being upset, you lose sixty seconds of happiness. Why not find work that makes you happy, even if it means you have to make some sacrifices such as reducing the number of vacations you go for, or practise theseย tips to be happier? I can guarantee that you’ll be having so much fun that you won’t miss those vacations. ๐Ÿ™‚



27 thoughts on “Work-Life Balance In Singapore: Is It Possible?

  1. Agree with your viewpoint. Many other things in life are a lot more important than work, and that it is important to be happy in the things that we do. Wish I can be like you.. I seriously dun like those mundane office work which makes me dread Mondays and every week, I’m just looking forward to Fridays. But these boring jobs are the ones that can pay bills, and I just give in to reality. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    • Hi Sherry,

      Don’t worry, you are not alone. Most people stick to jobs they hate just because it pays the bills. Some eventually go on to find jobs they LOVE and which can also pay the bills. But they really have to take a leap of faith and start looking. Otherwise, it’s easy to stick in a comfort zone and not budge. ๐Ÿ˜€ In any case, good luck, and have a merry x’mas! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I second that support. It’s strange how bosses or managers are “trained” into thinking work done from home and from office is different, though the former may be of better quality. When I write my paper from home, it’s in a very relaxing environment, wearing comfy clothes and getting to rest my back when sitting too long hurts. At times, a nap refreshes one to continue writing with refreshed inspiration. However, we can’t even take a cat nap in the office without colleagues’ “accusatory” looks and being made to feel guilty about it. Even asking for permission to work from home is something I had to mull over for a few days before picking up courage to do so.

    Secondly and ironically, when you show you are very capable, the bosses worked you even harder, totally forgetting about the motivation you need, like flexibility and rest. That’s why I told my boss my greatest regret is not having negotiated for working from home for a fixed number of days per week. Well, the positive take away is this; My next contract will be negotiated such that the lower the pay, the lesser the number of days I report to work at the office. Of course, one has to prove you really have what it takes for you to be in a position to negotiate. :))

    • I REALLY don’t think that there should be a pay cut if the employee is actually MORE productive when working from home. More work gets done, so why the pay cut?? After all, if we are in the office, we use the electricity to power our laptops, even charge our handphones and other devices, and drink the water from the dispensers. If we work from home, we “reduce costs” for the company. So employers should actually ENCOURAGE and promote work-from-home options. ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. Hi Grace. Nice post u got there. I believe in worklife balance too as it is really crucial to have self care as much as we are all tight down with busy schedules everyday. We all need to rest in order to travel further down the road and welcome another new day feeling recharged, afresh and energized. Thus work life balance is important and only possible if we are consciously aware of it pans remind ourselves about it so that we do not get burn out easily. So start having work life balance
    now. We might suddenly realize how much we have missed out from this exciting world!

  4. I agree with you, Grace. The standard of living is now so high that there is less family time since people are struggling to make ends meet. We should not forget the priority of family relations in life, there are much more things that surpass career. We should know our limits and organize our time well in terms of work and relaxation.

  5. Yes, it is possible. It’s whether you want to or not. We Asians are the one spoiling our own market then complain. It’s the Kiasu mindset which is killing us. Work can never finish, if you can finish your work then you will not have a job.
    In the end, it’s all about priority and what you really want and whether you want it enough to do it or not

  6. well, I reckon the same would work for me. For the career I wanted I need a PhD but there are way too many people who hijack others to get credits so I’m thinking of turning directions.

  7. Thank you for this post I can surely relate since I often times over work but now I will try to control it. I am so guilty of bringing work outside the school. Have a nice day

    • I hope so. I do think most people are contented with being unhappy, if you know what I mean. They know what will make them happy but they just won’t take that first step out of their comfort zone. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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