Thirty-five-year-old media professional Cynthia Loh (name changed) took 90 days without pay while working during one of the busiest periods of the year.
The Singaporean wanted to take free time to find herself and felt really exhausted by business commitments and daily stresses at work. During the break, Cynthia enrolled in a 200-hour yoga teacher training course at the Yoga Movement studio. She paid $ 3,900 to attend the course.
That was a few months ago. She has since completed her training. Cynthia has returned to her job, but her social media is still active with yoga demonstrations. She also recently held free outdoor yoga classes for her friends.
“With the support of my great boss, I managed to take three months of unpaid leave. Although this period was very difficult for the team with one man down, I really needed a break from work, from Covid-19, and to get my sanity back. ”
Cynthia doesn’t rule out turning her newly-founded hobby into a side income, but due to work commitments, she’s putting those plans on hold for now.
“Now that I have returned to work, I feel I have to make up for lost time. The work was hectic, but I feel fresher and more ready to start the day all over again. ”
Cynthia is among many others who have experienced burnout caused by a pandemic.
According to experts, prolonged stress Covid-19 and many inferences have had an impact on our cognitive functioning.
A pandemic is not just a stressful event Mike Yassa, says the director of the UC Irvine Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.
“It was a collection of many stressors at the same time, some life-threatening, along with disturbances in our physical activity, routine and daily rhythm.”
More of them go on vacation or go on longer vacations
Another Singaporean, Willynn Ng, who is in her early thirties, took a three-month break in April this year. Pandemic fatigue and uncertainty made her want to reconsider her life goals and plans for the future.
The graduate in marketing enrolled in a “Scrum Master” course with the NTUC Learning Hub, using his $ 500 SkillsFuture credits. The young mother of four also took free time to tidy up her home and fetch friends.
“During these three months, I’ve learned to be a better person and I’m definitely not going to lower my standards in decision-making from now on,” Willynn said, sounding stronger than before.
Leza Klenk, personal branding trainer and CEO of Spendless Academy, also announced her plans to go on leave for a few weeks in August on LinkedIn.
She stated her personal reasons and added that her assistant will post the content on social networks while she is not there.
“All the best to everyone. I look forward to talking to all of you again. My last piece of advice – Take care of your mental health, because you can never pour from an empty cup, ”she said.
Pandemic fatigue has hit everyone, including those at the top.
Other Level C executives are also registered on vacation: CIO Group for Prudent Asia Stephan Van Vliet took 12 months off this year to return to his homeland the Netherlands for personal reasons.
Former Nanofilm CEO Ricky Tan also took a absence recently for personal reasons before resigning to seek other options.
What is Saturday?
Saturday is usually defined as a period of long absence from work. During this extended break, employees may choose to pursue their own interests, such as traveling, writing, volunteering, learning, or other activities (or even just vacationing).
However, vacation rights vary from company to company. They are usually easier to share with employees who have been there for a long time, such as five years or more.
Vacations can last from two months to a year, and most companies do not include vacations in vacation fees.
In most cases, vacations include the use of unpaid leave. This means that the employee must give up taking any income while he is away. Sometimes vacations are offered only to high performers as a form of reward that forces them to stay longer in society.
There is no legal right to unpaid or annual leave in Singapore, so it is up to individual companies to decide whether they want to grant it to employees.
Some companies that include such vacation plans are the National Social Services Council, the food chain The Lo & Behold Group and Maybank Singapore.
Abroad, companies have taken steps to launch company-wide breaks during this period as they recognize the need for a break for their employees. American company Hootsuite closed his office a week in July. A statement on LinkedIn said:
“As you may know, this has been a shitty year for literally everyone. So we decided to take a break for the whole company to gather intelligence and refuel the tanks … Please do not contact us. Talk to you later.”
Last week, Nike closed its corporate offices in a week provide employees with a mental health break. The global brand said that additional time is intended for employees to refresh and recharge during the ongoing pandemic.
The pandemic has had a major impact on mental health, and work-related burnout is on the rise, said Anita Jiawen Sadasivan, co-founder and chief welfare officer at the MindFi mental health platform.
“For individuals who are burned out, unhappy at work and thinking about a career change, vacations are a great time to develop new skills and prepare for a career change, and even just to take a break and think about their life and career path. For those who love their job but feel exhausted, Saturday can be a time and space to recharge and decompress so they can come back with renewed motivation. ”
Anita recommends taking vacations. “Pandemic fatigue is real. We have been living with stress, uncertainty, limitations and big lifestyle changes for almost 18 months now. Exhausting. ”
Some symptoms of ‘pandemic fatigue’ are irritability, lethargy, fear and insomnia.
Anita Jiawen Sadasivan, co-founder and Chief Welfare Officer, MindFi
“It comes from the constant uncertainty we live with, the lack of exercise and sun due to the long days spent at home, as well as the blurring of the boundaries of business life and the difficulty of separating from work.”
Chronic stress has been found to kill brain cells and even reduce the size of our prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain responsible for memory, focus and learning, other experts note.
Due to some conditions caused by working from home, social isolation and loneliness also affect the brain.
“We have seen changes in volume in the temporal, frontal, occipital and subcortical regions of the brain, amygdala and hippocampus in people who are socially isolated,” said Barbara Sahakian, a professor of clinical neuropsychology at the University of Cambridge.
Employers are opening up to the idea of a longer vacation
It may be true that workers need a break to relax and come back stronger in the middle of a pandemic, but that luxury may not be given to everyone.
Returning to work that awaits you after a period of rest or finding time to pursue your own interests outside of work is a dream for many.
Fortunately, over the years, more and more employers have embraced this idea.
According to the Singapore Ministry of Labor Employment conditions 2018 report, 51.9 percent of companies in Singapore said they allow their employees to take unpaid leave for more than a month.
That’s an improvement of nearly 10 percent over 2014, where 42 percent offered it to their workers.
However, not all human resources professionals encourage employees to take a vacation, as it may be disrupt business. Employers and bosses can offer leave, but that doesn’t mean they can fully accept the idea of being one man while the job, for example, is fighting a fire.
If someone really wants to take a break, an action plan is necessary. The best way is to notify your boss or employer in advance or talk to a supervisor so everyone can arrange your work while you are away.
This will also make things easier for your colleagues, who in the meantime will have to take on your role and ensure positive relationships when you return.
Can’t go on vacation? Here are other ways you can relax your mind
If vacations do not apply, try taking two weeks off to recover from stress and burnout.
“Spend the first week switching off, relaxing and recharging your batteries. In the second week, look at your limits, habits and mechanisms of coping with stress “, said Anita.
Using mental health apps like Headspace and MindFi can help you process your thoughts, learn to assess and set boundaries, manage stress, and build lasting habits.
Practicing meditation by being in the moment can also help you find calm as it is associated with improving stress and increasing memory resilience.
Physical activity can also help improve cognitive functioning. Exercise increases neuroplasticity, also known as the adaptability of the brain to changes, which can help our brain recover from Covid-19.
If not, you can listen to music. Music lowers cortisol levels in the body, and research has shown that this is associated with improved brain resistance later in life.
To analyze what works for us and what we have failed to do in the last 18 months, Anita has given us three thinking solutions:
Do you have adequate boundaries for working life in terms of time and space? If boundaries don’t suit you, what can you do to make it better?
Do you feel safe and comfortable conveying your needs and limitations in your workplace? Is there anything you can do to improve this communication?
Do you exercise enough? Do you drink too much alcohol? Alcohol consumption and inactivity have been on the rise since the beginning of the pandemic. As the pandemic progresses, make sure your sleep, eating and exercise habits support your health!
Highlight credit: Leza Klenk, SoFi, Willynn Ng