Having the occasional opportunity to take off and stay abroad for a few weeks annually during the past few years, many friends have marvelled at my distinct priviledge – something that is not enjoyed by many Singaporeans back home.
Most Singaporean PMETs enjoy a leave forecast of less than 20 days per annum and after saving a few days for emergency use, there is often less than 10 leave days’ balance to plan for a holiday abroad with the family.
We all know how planned holidays work – you go to the airport, join a tour group which will rush you through the itinerary and finally you return home more tired than before you go on the trip.
Some even need to take a few days off to rest after their holiday!
I have long forsaken the planned tour with our holiday agencies as I have always slipped away to be on my own when we took up tour packages that for the past decade we would only buy air tickets and romp on our own.
When I was working with office colleagues few years back, we all have to schedule our holidays during the December period so that someone is at the office.
I always felt that working in the office during December is quite relaxing as everybody works slowly and the mood is fabulous during the festive Christmas season.
How I wished every month is like December in the whole working calender.
Our Singaporean PMETs are mostly over-worked and more critically have nowhere to go for a recharge.
Some also prefer to stay at home during the weekend to recharge over a game at the computer or simply sleep in.
The maddening crowd at our shopping malls during weekend also deters many from stepping out of their homes.
I have known of many Singaporeans travelling across to JB for the weekend rendevous with their family or nearby seaside resort in Bintan for rejuvenation especially if there are the long weekend holidays stretching from Friday to Sunday.
Here in Sydney, people travel inter-state or drive to the countryside to camp and hang out. It is a good time for refreshing and recharging before the next week starts.
The change in environment from city to countryside living can be refreshing and the mood changes when one is out in the open fields and the welcomed fresh air.
Most Friday afternoon, Aussie executives would also hang out in pubs for networking sessions for the past few decades.
The office will be half-empty as Aussies drink pints of beer hanging out together with other blokes on most Friday afternoon after lunch.
I have heard that it is also a fantastic time for networking with others from similar industry.
Of course, those who went for regular pints are mostly managers or executives with marketing and sales job portfolio.
Many stressed out executives also use such time to relax after a hard week at the work place.
In Singapore, people work round the clock from 9pm to 7pm mostly and some even bring their work home.
We probably may have the highest number of executives working 60-hours work week in a first world country economy!
There is hardly any worthwhile places to go and recharge here except to chill out over beer on a Friday night-out.
I saw heaps of young people hanging out at Clarke Quay drink joints on Friday nights and binge drinking seems to be the norm now.
Many friends I know also jog to destress or join a health club to sweat out the negative vibes.
Its a cheaper way to run off those stressful knots in the muscles than binge drinking and many people swear that it is a valuable destressing technique.
Its a wonderful way to lose some e weight and have a solid physique if you also do the weights.
I have being jogging for the past 25 years thrice a week religiously and it has been my best destressing habit so far.
My work entails listening to alot of sad stories from my clients and my need for destressing is immense.
I also read alot and write out my thoughts so that I have an outlet avenue to vet off negative energy.
Those who are married are better off as they have someone to speak to after they reach home.
Of course, it will be disastrous if your partner is someone whom you dread to go home to.
That is probably why many husbands seek pleasure outside when their marriages hit the rock.
Studies have shown that men do not mainly look for laision outside of marriage due to sexual reason but its more of a emotional need that they seek a connection with.
When I was younger, I used to go the east coast beach on Saturday afternoon after my half day work to swim and cycle till late afternoon.
It was a time for me to rest, relax and recharge after working hard for 5 1/2 days at work.
I visited the beach for a good solid 5 years before I abandoned my weekly time-out as my girlfriend then was not keen to go under the sun on a hot Saturday afternoon.
I found the beach theraupetic and listening to the sea waves beating upon the shore gave me a soothing feeling and it was my way of giving myself a treat after working so hard for the whole week.
Nowadays, the congestion at the east coast beach is so bad that I have not step foot on my favourite beachfor the past ten years!
In crowded Singapore whereby any ounce of space is used for commercial reason, there is hardly any place left for our busy executives to rest and relax.
I used to find the Marina Bay a fantastic place to chill out and relax but now it is been occupied by commercial buildings and the integrated resort.
Many of us took short trips abroad either in JB or Bintan to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
However, you need to prepare for the short overseas trip and sometimes it is difficult to go away over night especially if you have dependent family members staying at home with you.
Stressed out Singaporeans executives need to go off to relax on a regular basis so that they can be recharged to fight for another week at work.
Our chronic work schedule has also put some executives into the psychatrist office as they need to seek medical assistance to resolve emotional stressors.
We all handle stresses differently and there will always be some who will need the support of counsellors and medical doctors and there is nothing wrong with that.
Transitioning has seen some executives who have quit from their jobs after they were stressed out by the work load and our infamous office politics at the offices.
Some have in fact seeked counselling support for the emotional stresses experienced at work.
I have told them that if they dread going to work for a few months, it is time to look around and send in their resignation letter.
Unfortunately, there is insufficient study done on how our PMETs are being adversely affected by work stress.
Companies also lack competent human resource managers who could provide counselling to their staff afefcted by work stress.
By the time the HR personnel spoke to the executives, many have already made up their mind to quit.
As Singapore tries to fill up our country with 6 million people, it is also timely to re-look at the shortage of recreation places in our country.
There are definitely insufficient parks and recreation facilities for our population to have fun and exercise.
I hope that more Punggol parks can be set up as its a wonderful place for people to walk. jog, cycle and roller blade.
I jog there at least twice a week and it is definitely a place of recreation and relaxation.
There will always be work stress especially in a first world economy power like ours but the population must have sufficent places to go to for recharging and destressing.
If not, we will continue to see many Singaporeans seeking better work life balance abroad.
Around 200, 000 Singaporeans are now working and living abroad and the number seems to be creeping up steadily…
Our government needs to tackle the chronic work life imbalance head on here come up with viable solutions or else a brain drain seems imminent.
Written by: Gilbert Goh