3 Baffling Things that Happen in Singapore’s Workplaces

Joanne Poh



Singapore is a funny little country. Every so often, something happens that defies logic. If you’re looking for an incident that completely stupefies you, look no further than the typical Singaporean workplace. Employers do things that kill rather than enhance productivity, while employees Facebook the day away and then complain about staying in the office till late at night. Here are three baffling things that happen at many Singaporean workplaces.


Everyone works as slowly as possible

There’s so much work to be done each day that you’d think a person would want to finish it as quickly and efficiently as possible, leaving room for having an actual life, right? Unfortunately, if you’ve ever worked in a Singapore SME, you’d know the opposite is often true.

Those employees who aren’t bombarded with too much work can be observed at all hours of the day gossiping with the pantry auntie, gazing at Facebook on their smartphones, being an active participant in five WhatsApp groups and trying to hide their multiple browser windows containing online shopping sites from their boss. One reason for this behaviour is that many bosses expect their employees to work late anyway—31% of employees work between 9 and 11 hours a day.

This means that employees try to be as inefficient as possible in a bid to look like they’re doing more work than they really are. Neil, a 41-year-old engineer, says, “Smart employees do their work as fast as possible and then sit on it until the deadline given to them by their boss. It doesn’t pay to let your boss know you finished too early as he will either think you’re a slacker for leaving the office on time or pile more work on you so you end up having to work late anyway.”


If you finish your work by 6pm, it means you don’t have enough work

Despite the fact that the typical Singapore employment contract states that official working hours are from 9am to 6pm, don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll be leaving at 6pm. In fact, about 7 out of 10 bosses in a recent survey stated that they expected their employees to work overtime and on weekends.

No matter how efficient you are at work, be prepared to get warning stares from your colleagues, who might caution you against making a bad impression if you’re seen leaving on the dot every day. Whether theirs is an unfounded fear really depends on your boss, but be warned that it’s not uncommon for a boss to assume that you don’t have enough work if you’re leaving on time.

Alicia, a 26-year-old lawyer, says, “It may not be the most politically-correct thing to say, but many bosses are actually quite explicit about not wanting their subordinates to leave on time. There’s the perception that you’re not working hard enough if you are leaving on time.”


Single, childless employees are expected to make bigger sacrifices

Juggling kids and work is hard, no question about it. But many young, childless employees complain that their bosses expect much bigger sacrifices from them based solely on the fact that they’re not married with kids.

Covering for colleagues on maternity leave often cannot be helped, but what really gets childless employees’ goat is when their superiors unfairly expect more of them, or assume they have no commitments outside of work.

Candice, a 28-year-old teacher, says, “One of my colleagues, who is married with kids, always arrows the younger, unmarried teachers to oversee school activities falling on Saturdays. She gives the excuse that she has kids, therefore she should not have to burn her weekends.

Whether to have kids or not is a personal choice, and just because someone doesn’t have kids doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a life. And just because someone does have kids doesn’t mean they can push their responsibilities to others!”

What other strange things have you noticed in Singapore workplaces? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.