Lack of work-life balance and feeling disconnected from co-workers cited as top stressors, as outlined by Microsoft study which focuses on employee wellbeing
SINGAPORE, 29 SEPTEMBER 2020 – Workers in Singapore are facing increased burnout due to lack of separation between work and personal life as well as worry of contracting COVID-19, according to Microsoft’s latest Work Trend Index report. 37 percent of respondents in Singapore cited increased rates of burnout over the past six months, with the lack of separation between work duties and personal obligations as negatively impacting their wellbeing. This was significantly higher than the Asia average of 29 percent and those cited by workers in India, Japan and Australia.
Surveying over 6,000 information and first-line workers across eight countries globally including Australia, Japan, India and Singapore, the study found that Singapore was the top country in Asia with workers facing increased burnout. In addition, 33 percent of workers in Singapore cited worries about contracting COVID-19, due to the lack of tech or protective equipment provided by businesses to effectively socially distance, as a contributor to their increased stress levels.
“In the last 6 months, we have seen how COVID-19 has contributed to the evolution of the workplace – from a physical space to one residing in a virtual world. As businesses adapt to a new way of working, it is important to examine the multifaceted impact these changes are having on employees and provide relevant and timely solutions,” said Joanna Lim, Modern Work and Security Business Group Lead, Microsoft Singapore.
Inspired by this research and conversations with customers, Microsoft announced the start of a longer journey to evolve its productivity tools to promote individual wellbeing and organisational resilience. A series of updates have been launched within Microsoft Teams to support employee wellbeing. These include a virtual commute experience that helps users prepare for the day and mindfully disconnect in the evening and new insights that supports managers and leaders in understanding how work happens, and its impact on employee wellbeing. Microsoft has also partnered with Headspace to bring a curated set of mindfulness and meditation experiences into the Teams platform and launched new Teams experiences for firstline workers to support them with the tools they need to work more safely.
Key findings from the research include:
- The pandemic increased burnout at work – in some countries more than others.
- Causes of workplace stress differ for firstline and remote workers.
- Six months in, there are more communications and fewer boundaries.
- No commute may be hurting, not helping, remote worker productivity.
- Studies show meditation can fight burnout and stress during the workday.
1. The pandemic increased burnout at work – in some countries more than others
While Singapore cited the highest rate of burnout in the region at 37 percent, Microsoft’s research showed that the experience varies. Burnout can be attributed to many factors, and the chart below explores how longer workdays impact feelings of burnout. For example, while Singapore had the highest levels of burnout, workers in Australia saw the highest increase in workday span in Microsoft Teams at 45 percent, with a medium increase in burnout. This was also significantly different from workers in Germany that saw very little change to workday span or feelings of burnout.
2. Causes of workplace stress differ for firstline and remote workers
The report revealed that top stressors shared by workers in Singapore was the lack of separation between work and life and feeling isolated or disconnected from co-workers, at 31 and 28 percent respectively. The study also found that 33 percent of workers have not been provided the tech or protective equipment they need to effectively socially distance by their company, contributing to increased stress levels.
Countries across Asia also had cited differing factors contributing to work stress. In Australia, the lack of separation between work and life was the top stressor with 24 percent, with the feeling of isolation coming closely behind at 22. However, in countries such as India and Japan, 42 percent and 26 percent respectively cited the inability to socially distance and the worry about contracting COVID-19 while on the job as a top stressor.
3. Six months in, there are more communications and fewer boundaries
Microsoft identified the lack of separation between work and life, along with feelings of isolation or disconnection from co-workers, as top workplace stressors in Singapore. To better understand these factors, Microsoft turned to usage patterns in Teams for more insights.
Data showed that globally, even six months past the first work-from-home orders, people are in significantly more meetings, taking more ad hoc calls and managing more incoming chats than they did before the pandemic. As people adjusted to remote working, after hours chats, or chats between 5pm and midnight, have also increased.
4. No commute may be hurting, not helping, remote worker productivity
For years, Microsoft’s research group has been studying how commute has helped maintain work-life boundaries—and worker’s productivity and wellbeing. A 2017 study helps us understand the productivity benefits of commute time. As part of the study, a digital assistant used chat conversations featuring task- and emotion-based questions to help participants prepare and detach from work through the day. The study found that 6 in 10 people (61 percent) globally felt they were more productive when the digital assistant helped them ramp up to and down from work. On average, productivity increased between 12 and 15 percent.
The new virtual commute experience in Teams will help workers have a productive start in the morning and mindfully disconnect in the evening. Users can expect to customize their experiences from a set of suggested tasks such as meditation with the Headspace app, reflecting on the day or helping workers close out on outstanding tasks.
5. Studies show meditation can fight burnout and stress during the workday
Of those surveyed in Singapore, 74 percent also said meditation could help decrease their work-related stress. External research backs this up – consistent meditation with Headspace can decrease stress and burnout and improve your ability to react to negative feedback.
Thus, Microsoft’s partnership with Headspace will offer workers the ability to schedule ad hoc or recurring time for mindfulness breaks anytime – before a big meeting or to find focus needed to start on an important project.
As Microsoft continues to learn more about wellbeing at work, users can expect to see related innovation continue to be developed across Microsoft 365 and Teams. For more information on the product updates mentioned in this report, visit the Microsoft 365 blog. You can also read the full research here.
 Workday span is the time between a person’s first and last active use of Microsoft Teams, such as sending a chat, editing a document or attending a meeting.
 Privacy approach: Microsoft takes privacy seriously. We remove all personal data and organization- identifying data, such as company name, from the data before using it to produce reports. We never use customer content such as information within an email, chat, document, or meeting to produce reports. Our goal is to discover and share broad workplace trends from aggregated data from the Microsoft Graph.