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8 minute read

Is it Reckless to Quit Amid a Tough Job Market? Not Necessarily, Experts Say

Stressing over whether you should resign from your job during a gloomy economic climate? Perhaps it’s not such a bad thing after all. Here’s why.

Man resigned and tidied up his stuff

If you’re currently stressing over whether you should resign from your job during a gloomy economic climate, then know this: Many Singaporean workers are also thinking of doing the same, while some have already taken the plunge. 

Logically speaking, the employment uncertainty brought about by the pandemic should foresee workers putting in their best efforts to keep their jobs. However, Microsoft’s Work Trend Index reported in July that over 49% of the Singapore workforce is considering leaving their employer in 2021. This is based on a respondent pool of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries, including Singapore. 

The idea of intentionally going jobless may appear to be un-Singaporean-like. Generally, we are known to be hard workers and steadfast in our pursuit of a better quality of life. This begs the question: what could possibly be the reason for this phenomenon?

Workers quitting during Covid-19: The why

Evidently, Covid-19 has taken a toll on the mental health of local workers. A survey conducted in March by human resource software firm Employment Hero showed that seven in 10 Singapore employees felt stressed by the pandemic in the past six months. 

They also indicated feeling uncomfortable discussing mental health in the workplace, while half of the business owners surveyed believed that workplaces should not bear the burden of their employees’ mental health problems.

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With Covid-19 affecting large numbers of workers, perhaps it’s time for employers to shift their stance towards offering more support for employees, including the new hires.

According to counsellor Vania Teo, employees who quit their jobs during the current Covid-19 period largely fall into two groups. The first consists of retrenched workers who may find themselves unhappy in their next jobs. 

“Sometimes in terms of adaptability, they may not be able to adapt to the new job. So they end up quitting and end up job-hopping to find their footing in other jobs,” she said to AsiaOne.

The second group consists of professionals “with stable careers” who choose to resign as they are no longer happy with certain aspects of the job. 

“Perhaps due to Covid-19, there’s a sense of uncertainty, they don’t really know if their work is what they really want to do. Working from home may also increase issues about bosses, or even the workload increasing as a result”, Vania added.

“People are just basically working more than what they used to, pre-Covid. And I would think it also takes a strain on their mental health.”

The Great Resignation

The trend of workers quitting their jobs during Covid-19 is not prevalent only in Singapore but a global phenomenon. With the rising numbers of people quitting their jobs globally, some economists have dubbed the trend as ‘The Great Resignation’. These are some of the latest figures from various agencies:

  • 41% out of more than 30,000 global workers surveyed is considering quitting or changing jobs in 2021 according to Microsoft 
  • 38% of workers surveyed in the UK and Ireland plan to quit in the next six months to a year
  • More than four million people in the US quit their jobs in April according to the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary

Burnout VS Boreout

While we are more familiar with burnout, ‘boreout’ is a new term that emerged recently. While burnout is often associated with being overworked and lacking in work-life balance, boreout is when employees grow bored of their work to the point that they feel what they do is pointless and devoid of value. 

The truth is, many Singapore workers have been experiencing boreout even before the onset of Covid-19. A pre-pandemic survey in 2017 found that 70% of employees in Singapore were feeling bored with their work. Now, having to work from home due to the pandemic restrictions, they also feel isolated and unmotivated. 

According to Jeanette Lim, a clinical psychologist at the Institute of Mental Health, many of her clients have shared being distraught with the loss of face-to-face interactions since social activities became restricted. 

She said to CNA: “After all, we are social creatures who benefit from love, attention, support, and comfort. A reduction in social connections can be disorienting, even destabilising,” 

On the impact of the pandemic on workers, Bjorn Lee, the founder of workplace mental health platform MindFi, added that the prolonged Covid-19 situation has also caused many workers to perceive work as less important in the grand scheme of things.

“The constant bad Covid news on social media of rising cases, no travel, new vaccine variants can make many feel trapped and numb,” he told CNA.

The ‘Aha!’ moment?

Despite the gloomy outlook brought about by Covid-19, some experts found that it is also a time that people are becoming more reflective of their life’s priorities.

According to Dr Cherie Chan, president of The Singapore Psychological Society, the Covid situation has probably shown people that the norm can be broken or changed, and for some, it could even be an inspiring event.

“Not knowing what’s to come may lead to more spur-of-the-moment decisions or the courage needed to make decisions that they may have wanted for a long time to come,” said Dr Cherie.

A Singapore study published by recruitment firm Randstad in July showed that 41% of respondents are considering leaving their current jobs to start their own business. This sentiment is highest among younger workers, with 51% of respondents aged 25 to 34 as compared to 20% of respondents aged 55 and above feeling so. 

As it stands, Covid-19 has spurred a “rush to innovate” to create new opportunities or fill the gaps in the market.

One such professional is 28-year-old Fiona Loh who quit her position as a technology product manager for a bank in July last year. The long hours and heavy workload had taken a toll on her mental well-being.

“There came this day where I sat there and I couldn’t think. My mind was so fatigued… I just felt I couldn’t continue,” she told CNBC.

At the same time, she saw the opportunity to take her baking side hustle, Whiskdom, up a notch during Singapore’s lockdown last year, which saw soaring demand for home-baked goods. 

Although she is aware that running her own business is riskier than being an employee, she said: “When you go into entrepreneurship, you end up having to be everything and you end up having to do everything on your own. It’s very different from being employed. But, for myself, I really enjoy doing it.”

Another professional, 36-year-old Serene Wu, tendered her resignation as a teacher in a junior college after the circuit breaker lockdown last year. It was during the restrictive period that she got to spend more time with her two young boys, aged six and four.

She said to AsiaOne: “I truly enjoyed the bonding and meaningful conversations we had together.”

At the same time, Serene also found time to help out at a company started by her friend, Love Bonds, which curates values-based books and magazines for kids. From just helping, she eventually became a co-partner of the company where she now conducts virtual brush calligraphy workshops for parents and children.

Things you should consider before quitting

No matter what the reason is, making the decision to resign from your job is never an easy one. Since quitting a job can have a major impact on your life, it’s helpful to take time to think about it. Here are six aspects to consider when thinking of quitting:

1. Your mental health 

No job is worth risking your mental health. If the workload is causing you undue stress, try talking to your bosses first if you could get some help, and if all still fails, only then should you consider looking for a different job. If you’re always feeling low speak to a counsellor or psychologist.

Read more: Stressed By Work and Career Worries? Here’s a Guide to Help

2. Your physical health 

Overwhelming stress can take a toll on your physical health. Find a job that allows you to stay healthy in the long run. Explore simple exercises to keep fit for a start.

3. Your finances 

Plan your finances ahead and ensure you have sufficient savings to last you for at least six months, especially if you do not have a new job lined up. Cultivate self-discipline with regard to your expenditure.

4. Your next job

If your current job is not able to meet your career goals, do in-depth research of the next job role or industry that you’re going for. Speak to a career coach if you need support.

5. Your professional network 

Maintain a positive professional relationship with your ex-employer and colleagues after submitting your resignation letter and serving notice. You never know when your paths might cross again.

6. Your skills 

Assess your professional skillset and learn how to upskill. Updating your professional profile will ensure that you remain employable in the long run.

Resignation isn’t the end

Leaving a job doesn’t mean that it’s the end of your professional journey. If you have carefully weighed the pros and cons of your decision, it may even lead to a brighter career prospect! Here is a list of relevant articles compiled to help you make a decision or how to see through your resignation process smoothly.

To resign or not to resign quoteIn a dilemma if you should leave your job? Here are some factors to consider.

Is it Time to Resign? Here’s How to Read the Sign

Tackling Boreout: What to Do When You Are Bored With Your Job

Resign but do not burn bridges quoteMaybe leaving is the best option. But that doesn’t mean it has to be on a sour note.

Countdown to a New Beginning — Starting With a Strategic Resignation

How to Resign From Your Job While Still Working Remotely

Leaving Your Job: Tips to Writing a Clear and Cordial Resignation Letter

Exit Interview Tips — Important Questions to Prepare For

Getting a Work Testimonial: A Breakdown and Sample What it Should Include

How to Craft a Farewell Message to Your Colleagues

Can we talk things out quoteUnhappy with your job? Learn how to turn things around before calling it quits.

How to Tell Your Boss You’re Unhappy — Without Worrying About Getting Fired

I Resigned But My Boss Gave a Counter-Offer. Should I Take it?

3 Talent Management Trends in 2022 You Cannot Ignore

Is Withdrawal of Your Resignation Letter a Wise Decision?

Employers Battling the Great Resignation Need to Improve Jobseeker and Employee Welfare

Unhappy With Your Company? Maybe it’s an Issue of Values or Priorities

How to Spot a Looming Resignation to Improve Talent Retention Strategies

Is it worth it to be your own boss quoteToying with the idea of striking out on your own? Know the pros and cons.

Going Freelance: What You Need to Know Before Quitting Full-Time

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