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More than just the paycheck: Many S’poreans are quitting in 2022, what would change their minds?

quit job singapore

In December last year, jobs portal Indeed released a survey finding in which one out of four Singapore workers are planning to leave their current employer in the first half of 2022.

The survey that polled 1,002 workers in Singapore aged 16 to 55, also found that nearly half were unsure if they would stay in the current job for the next six months.

This suggests a “great resignation” or “great reshuffle” trend coming in 2022, a phenomenon similar to other first world countries like the United States and Europe, where workers’ needs are changed by the pandemic, said Indeed.

Many of the respondents cited Covid-19 as a reason for workers wanting to quit. Exacerbated by the pandemic, half of the employees are realising that they do not like their current jobs, while 46 per cent are pointing to increased stress levels.

Meanwhile, two out of five (or 44 per cent) of the workers are saying that there were heavier workloads. Meanwhile, one-third of the respondents said that they’re experiencing more burnout, and one-fifth said they are feeling isolated.

As a follow-up to this Indeed survey, Vulcan Post polled 20 Singapore workers from different industries and age ranges to find out why exactly so many are expected to quit this year, and what would make them change their mind.

(* Disclaimer: All names of respondents have been changed to protect their identity)

Half of them might quit their jobs this year

great resignation singapore
Breakdown of polled workers who intend to quit their jobs this year / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

Most notably, 50 per cent of the respondents revealed that they might be quitting this year. Additionally, 16.7 per cent said a definite ‘yes’ to quitting this year.

Reasons for this decision varies, from “poor career progression” at current company, “stagnant pay”, “increased workload”, to simply wanting to try out a new work environment or new role.

“I’ve been with my current company, which is a startup, for four years. This is my first full-time job and I do love my job here, but I also wanted to seek out better career prospects. I have since applied to bigger companies in hopes of a sizeable pay increment, and I got what I wanted! I’ll be starting my new job soon, pursuing the same role at an e-commerce giant,” said Jared*, who works in the advertising industry.

“You never know what’s in it for you until you actively seek out such opportunities,” added the 30-year-old.

In contrast, one-third of the respondents do not have any plans to tender their resignation anytime soon; but what’s holding them back?

Most of them are afraid that they would not be able to find a company that’s able to match their current salary, or are simply unwilling to explore other job opportunities because their current workplace already has a good company culture as well as career growth opportunities.

However, one particular respondent cited that she wanted to serve more years in the company because listing one year on a resume does not look impressive enough.

Interestingly, 90 per cent of the polled workers had set a timeframe on how long they would stay when they first joined the company.

Out of this figure, 58 per cent said they expect to stay for at least two years, while 20 per cent said they expect to stay for three to five years, especially for more experienced workers. The shortest duration cited was six months.

For those that cited two years or less, they reasoned that they had set out a short timeframe because they were entering a role in a new industry or wanted to gain new experiences in different companies. Other reasons also come into play.

“Personally, I don’t intend to work in an agency for a long time, especially with my build-to-order flat coming up, and possible family planning are also in the books,” explained Valerie*, 29, who has been with her company for about a year now.

As for Joanne*, who works in a recruitment agency, she does not want to stay in one company for too long and prefers to ‘job-hop’ to earn a higher salary. “You can’t depend on yearly increment, it sucks,” she quipped.

What are some factors that would make them stay?

pay raise salary
Image Credit: MyCareersFuture

For those who have plans on quitting their jobs this year, an overwhelming 90 per cent of them cited pay raise as the number one factor that would make them change their mind.

One respondent specifically cited a pay raise of “at least 10 per cent”, while another looks at “probably 20 per cent increment”.

Other secondary factors that would make them stay include more annual leaves, bigger bonuses, job promotion, and a change in job scope. These are all changes subject to employers’ approval, but there’s one distinct factor cited that is not at all employer-related, which is the “people”.

“Honestly, I’ve forged some of the best friendships in my current company. For most of the people that I work with, I regard them more as ‘friends’ rather than mere ‘colleagues’. So when it comes to a point in time when many of my good friends leave the company, it will also make me question my decision to stay on in the company because work life will no longer be as fun without them around,” said Mark*, 31.

When it comes to what would make them stay longer in a company, majority (85 per cent) cited salary or career progression. “Money really has the power to make someone stay, even if they hate the job,” remarked Tyler*, 25.

Besides seeing a stronger team synergy and good mentorship, they would like to be offered better medical benefits or “health welfare”. Beyond physical health, some respondents have expressed the growing importance of mental health, which has since taken a bigger spotlight amid these pandemic times.

According to Valerie*, her workplace offers mental health support in partnership with a company that specialises in counselling and therapy. Having access to such mental health support reassures her, who has suffered burnout in recent times due to increased workload.

Joanne* added that a good boss needs to take care of an employee’s mental wellbeing. A simple example could be asking staff to not leave the office too late, or reassign work when they feel a particular employee is overworked. This also ties in to a healthy work-life balance.

Additionally, several respondents also revealed that “appreciation from bosses” makes a world of difference to them.

It’s more than just celebrating birthdays together, one respondent said, although he is appreciative of the gesture. Instead, they would like to know that they are doing good work and positively contributing to their team and/or company.

“My current boss checked in on me every other day when I had Covid-19 and got sent to a hotel for quarantine. He ordered a 500-piece puzzle set to (keep me entertained), and my team also sent over two bags full of groceries. Personally, it’s these kind of little things that makes a difference,” said Jia Ying*, recounting her colleagues’ caring gestures.

When asked what are some of the existing initiatives in place aimed at retaining employees, many of the respondents said that they are either unaware of such initiatives, or feel that there are none at the moment.

“(My) boss thinks that if you want to leave, there’s no point in trying to keep you,” said Darryl*, adding that bosses should have quarterly check-ins with employees. This could be a time for bosses to assess employees’ work performance and salary (instead of having to wait for the annual appraisal), and for employees to also share their work grievances and feedback.

On the other hand, Joanne* said that to her knowledge, her manager did not try to “counter-offer” or ask employees to stay if anyone submits a resignation letter.

In contrast, some said that their companies do make attempts to revise salary, albeit a little too late.

“Once someone decides to leave, especially if they feel that their current pay is too low and they receive a better job offer, bumping their pay at the last minute isn’t enough to make them stay — unless maybe it’s a drastic pay increase,” said Chatriya*, 33, who works in an education technology firm.

care package employee
Image Credit: Active Print & Promotion

In general, most of their companies already offer a good working environment with decent employee perks, but they feel that more can be done to boost the workplace welfare, such as organising more social cohesion activities, sending out care packages to employees, and extending employee benefits to include family or insurance benefits.

Jia Ying* said that in her company, team managers are encouraged to check in on team members and boost morale by having small group bonding sessions (either physically or virtually) or through small acts like surprising employees with a bubble tea delivery, supported with a team budget by management.

She added that she is part of the team that looks at how to increase employer hiring and retention in her company. Some other things that have been rolled out includes “salary benchmarking, more flexible working arrangements, more conversations with staff on how to reframe job satisfaction, and more structured conversations about job progression for staff (across) all levels (and departments).”

Covid-19 dampens job market, affects work sentiments

According to the latest Ministry of Manpower (MOM)’s Labour Market Advance Release report, total employment in Singapore grew “substantially” in the last quarter of 2021 with more residents and non-residents being hired.

Total employment rose by 47,400 in the fourth quarter, compared to the decline of 2,400 in the third quarter.

“We expect the labour market to continue to improve in 2022, driven by an overall easing in domestic COVID-19 restrictions and the resumption of international travel,” said MOM.

“However, recovery to pre-COVID state continues to be uneven across sectors, and uncertainty remains over the trajectory of the virus.”

As the labour market shows signs of recovery, some respondents feel that the job market is rather unstable, which dampens their likelihood to hunt for a new job.

Drawing on personal experience, Valerie* said that it was “definitely harder” to find a job during the pandemic as many companies imposed hiring freezes and offered lower salaries.

The pandemic has also made work-from-home the norm, which garners mixed responses from the respondents.

As a fresh graduate entering the working world, Laura* feels that it was quite hard to adapt to a new role with hybrid and remote working arrangements, due to a lack of face-to-face mentoring and guidance.

She elaborated that being in the same physical space as her manager makes her more comfortable in asking work-related questions, as opposed to bombarding these questions via WhatsApp, which may come across as “annoying”.

mental health singapore worker stressed
Image Credit: HRM Asia

For the majority, remote working has blurred the lines between work and home, which have increased stress levels and diminished overall wellbeing.

“There’s a tendency to overwork and not being able to switch off,” said Jia Ying*.

Some also cited that remote working has brought about inconveniences in the work processes and created a “disconnect” amongst teams, especially for those involved in the content creation chain.

This was a problem that was identified in the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak, but as they have experienced remote working for over two years now, they feel that it can be resolved with extra coordination and good communication skills.

In general, their sentiments towards remote working has largely improved, though they feel there’s still a need for “facetime with colleagues”, especially for meetings. Some also feel that they have seen improved productivity with better time management and reduced distractions at home.

All in all, although the world might witness “The Great Resignation” in 2022, companies are not at all powerless in this and they do have the leverage to mitigate this trend.

In fact, it takes more than a bigger paycheck to keep employees. If employers put in effort to make them feel cared, appreciated and empowered, there’s a strong likelihood that they would not leave the company and instead, would dedicate all their time and energy to help bring your company to greater heights.


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(UEN 201431998C.)

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