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The state of mental health and burnout among HR professionals in Singapore

The state of mental health and burnout among HR professionals in Singapore

Following heightened global burnout rates among employees, 41% of the HR professionals surveyed rated their mental health to be "fair", “poor", "very poor", or "extremely poor".

Off the back of organisational changes and a looming economic downturn, HR professionals in Singapore seem to be experiencing burnout, exhaustion, and poor mental health. According to a study by Intellect, in partnership with Milieu Insight, 75% of HR professionals surveyed say they experience ‘burnout’ at least once a month.

Additionally, in line with heightened global burnout rates amongst employees, 41% of the 150 respondents rated their mental health to be "fair", “poor", "very poor", or "extremely poor". Further, many said they do not have access to the necessary tools to combat this emotional fallout and lack recognition for their work, resulting in increased levels of fatigue. 

While numerous factors such as financial and geopolitical uncertainties have contributed to burnout and fatigue among the workforce, the glamourisation of productivity and the “rise and grind” mentality has taken its toll on the region’s workforce — especially amongst HR teams and younger employees, the study found.

While 59% of HR professionals described their mental health as ‘excellent’, ‘very good’, or ‘good,’ 75% feel burnt out at least once a month. More frequently, 41% of them say they are burnt out at least once a week.

Despite this trend, only one-third (32%) of HR respondents believe their company gives "high" or "very high" importance to employees' mental health. In fact, while 51% of HR professionals say their employer provides them with mental health resources, less than half (44%) are satisfied with these.

Though a large part of supporting employee mental wellbeing means normalising mental health conversations in the workplace, the majority of respondents do not openly broach this topic at work — just 19% bring it up once a month; 27% talk about it “a few times a year or less”, and 26% never discuss mental health.

Expectations versus reality

It goes without saying that employers would need to work to address the root cause of HR and employee burnout and stress, putting in place systematic solutions via organisational-level interventions. However, it is not all that easy when HR professionals are feeling overworked and unable to perform their best in their roles. While close to six in 10 HR professionals surveyed (59%) described their workload as 'heavy', not all of them feel responsible for employees’ mental health (50%) – despite 27% indicating that addressing this is one of their job responsibilities.

Beyond that, the study noted a general feeling of "catching up to expectations" among HR professionals, who say they are unable to effectively do their jobs. When asked what they believe is expected of them at work, the responses were as follows:

  • 83% indicated “performing their best,"
  • 60% said "completing their tasks within working hours", and
  • 55% said "doing their best for employees".

However, of those who listed "performing their best" as a perceived expectation of them at work, only 61% were able to effectively do so.

Similarly, only 41% of those who indicated "completing their tasks within working hours" were able to do so, and the same percentage of those who believed they needed to "do their best for employees" were able to do so. This could possibly reflect the impact of burnout on business productivity, the study highlighted.

On the more personal front, the impact of the above could be seen on the respondents' leisure and wellbeing practices: close to half who expected to get enough rest and leisure time have been unable to do so (42%), and only half of those who expect to be able to personally practise wellbeing tips could do so effectively (50%).

"Human resource teams are extremely crucial to how an organisation functions, even more so in current times," Theodoric Chew, Co-founder & CEO Intellect, pointed out. Adding to his views, Dr Oliver Suendermann, Vice President, Clinical, Intellect, said: "This has been an important study to be a part of to gain a deeper understanding of HR professionals’ mental health and its impact on the organisation as a whole. The results are telling – businesses must expand mental wellbeing support to HR teams to ensure they are able to become strategic partners tasked with taking care of employees and ensuring they remain engaged.

"An empowered HR workforce is more likely to realise their full potential at work and bring greater value to their team."

Stephen Tracy, Chief Operating Officer of Milieu Insight, further affirmed: "These findings serve as an important reminder that, when we think about mental health at the workplace, we can’t forget about the HR professionals who are on the frontlines. With three out of four HR professionals in Singapore stating they experience burnout often, business leaders need to ensure they have the right mechanisms in place to support their HR team."

Insights from the latest study closely reflect findings from Intellect's Hustle Culture survey released in September 2022, which showed that half (51%) of employees in Singapore report an average to poor quality of life, and the lowest levels of engagement and job satisfaction. [Read more updates on the survey here.]

Lead image / Intellect

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