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4 Hacks to Improve Your Work Life Balance When You’re Expected to Spend Long Hours at the Office

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Joanne Poh

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Work-life balance doesn’t exist in Singapore. If some bosses had their way, you wouldn’t even have a life to balance with your work.

The reality is that, despite the government trying to convince companies to implement flexi-work schemes with the Work-Life Grant, many employers want their employees to stay at work for as long as possible every day.

If that sounds like your job, what can you do? Here are four survival hacks that might even improve the quality of your life outside of work, however little of it you might have.

 

Take naps during lunchtime

Singaporeans are some of the world’s most sleep-deprived people, and no wonder, as we also work some of the world’s longest hours. If you’re the type who’s stuck at the office till sundown, unless you can go directly from the office to bed every day without eventually burning out or going insane, you need some time to unwind and have a life after knocking off at the end of the day.

Unfortunately, all this unwinding also eats into the number of hours you can sleep. If working fewer hours isn’t an option, save yourself from an early death by taking naps during lunchtime like they do in China.

If your office doesn’t get too much human traffic during lunchtime, get a yoga mat and small blanket, and convert the space under your desk into a bunk. You can even hang a table cloth over the edge of your desk for extra privacy. Otherwise, look for an empty meeting room or stairwell, or check if your office has a rooftop garden you snooze in.

Of course, you also have the option of buying an eye mask and earplugs, and KOing in your office chair at your desk.

 

If there’s no way you can spend less time at the office, run as many errands as you can during office hours

Some bosses want you on standby in the office all day and all night even if you’re needed. Yes, sounds pointless, but I’ve worked with more than one boss who thought junior employees should stay at the office till 8+ at night regardless of whether they had work.

So, if there’s absolutely no way you can come in later and leave earlier than you already do, that just means you’ll have to get some of those annoying administrative activities, those that eat into your free time, done during office hours.

Unless you’re working in some ulu industrial park that’s far from the rest of civilisation, check out where the closest amenities to your office are.

Those who work in Raffles Place/Tanjong Pagar will want to know the locations of their nearest:

  • Post office (Ocean Financial Centre and Downtown Gallery)
  • AXS Machine
  • SISTIC outlet (Marina Bay Link Mall, Asia Square, Chinatown Point, Esplanade)
  • Supermarket (China Square Central, Chinatown Point, Tanjong Pagar Plaza)
  • Library (Chinatown Point)
  • Daiso (Chinatown Point)
  • Bookshop (Afro-Asia Building)

Also bring your and bills and iBanking tokens so you use the office internet connection to pay your bills, buy necessities online and even book tickets for your holidays.

 

Seek out employers that offer flexibility at your next interview

The next time you interview for a new job, look out for an employer who’s open to offering employees flexibility, and who doesn’t insist on lots of face time.

While it used to be taboo to inquire about flexible arrangements, and even now many potential employers with an old-school mindset will mark you down for even asking, if you aren’t desperate for the job it’s best to know ahead of time if you’ll be penalised for leaving on time when you’ve finished all your work.

The more in-demand your skills are and the stronger you are as a candidate, the more you’ll be able to negotiate for a flexible working arrangement. I’ve seen employees in even the most anal-retentive, inflexible of companies manage to wrangle themselves staggered hours or part-time arrangements merely because the company really wanted to keep them.

 

Take control of your own work

Many employees get pushed around by their bosses because they’re so… mousey and have zero initiative. This makes the bosses paranoid that they’ll do nothing unless prodded. When you work in this way, you’re at the mercy of your boss’s every whim and fancy.

You can mitigate somewhat your boss’s control over your working hours by being authoritative and taking charge of your own work.

Instead of waiting for your boss to assign you something you know is going to land on your desk at 6pm, volunteer to do it ahead of time so you can get a head start, or ask if there’s anything else you can do early on in the day.

Learn to anticipate your boss’s demands and when you’re given work, take charge of it by fleshing out to your boss how you plan to get it done, or asking to delegate or be assigned help if necessary.

Working in this way gives you more control over your time, and also enables you to rope in colleagues whenever appropriate rather than taking on everything on your own.

You will look like a go-getter, and when you leave the office your boss just might worry less about you slacking off.

Are you satisfied with your current work-life balance? Tell us why or why not 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.