How Employers and Employees Can Guard Mental Health Care Amid Layoffs

Singaporeans in tech firms find themselves fearing for job security.
17 Mar 2022

Singaporeans in tech firms find themselves fearing for job security. Meta recently announced plans to lay off another 11,000 employees, just four months after making a similar number of jobs redundant last year. Further tightening the noose are closures of around 5,000 additional roles originally scheduled for hire, a practice that has become so commonplace in today’s job market that it has led to some of the fiercest levels of competition for tech jobs since 2011.


The current job climate is a stark contrast to what it was barely two years ago, when employees found themselves holding onto the majority of the bargaining chips for a short but brief period. With futures more uncertain than ever, even employees who have received verbal assurances of job security aren’t feeling 100% safe.


While Singapore has been shielded from the worst of market conditions worldwide, analysts predict that unemployment rates will still rise from Q4 2022’s low of 2% to 2.4% in the first half of this year. These numbers, while lower than the 3.4% peak of the pandemic, do little to allay the fears of employees forgoing bonuses, pay-increases, or their entire paycheck as the cost-of-living continues to climb.


Some workers are feeling more anxious than others

Anecdotes from various employees, who preferred to remain anonymous for fear of scrutiny from colleagues, suggest that upper-middle management tends to be the first on the chopping block when it comes to eliminating high monthly expenditures. Tech workers have also observed that individuals operating in core functions — such as data scientists in artificial intelligence companies, are less likely to be let go. This sentiment is corroborated by MOM’s survey which revealed that 4 in 5 tech layoffs involved employees in ‘support roles’ such as marketing, sales, and other corporate functions.


The lesson here is that possessing an indispensable skill set still holds value amid the current madness. Even in small to medium enterprises, employees with multifaceted skill sets that are essential to business function are unlikely to be replaced as long as business remains profitable. The reason is simple. It takes more resources and effort for companies to hire someone with the exact same skill set, domain knowledge, and camaraderie with existing team members and clients.


How workers can regain assurance and confidence

Sentiments of numbness have begun to circulate among employees, who have been bombarded by string after string of bad news over the span of three years. This is where supportive colleagues and a transparent workplace environment become more critical than ever in alleviating anxieties and keeping morale high. Studies show that mental health and performance go hand in hand, so organisations that play their cards right can truly create win-win situations moving forward regardless of how power dynamics continue to swing.


Of course, this all hinges on whether companies invest in worker well-being in the first place. But even for individuals who find themselves unemployed or stuck in less than ideal situations, behavioural scientists suggest that these trying times can be opportunities for discovery and growth.


For example, employees who suspect that layoffs might be coming for them, or don’t foresee long-term growth in their current employment may take the opportunity to attend courses or switch to fields that they’ve always been curious about. That said, taking this leap of faith requires some level of financial security and privilege. Even so, workers can still take job elements and skills that continue to excite them to roles that better align with their ideals, even if it’s not 100% perfect.


Take the job hunt one step at a time

There’s no denying that hunting for a job can be a full-time job itself. Between customising resumes, undergoing assessments, and sitting through interviews, hours can stack up pretty quickly. Mix in financial insecurity and constant rejections, and job applicants have the perfect recipe for mental health disaster.


And just like a real job, structuring and managing your time can do wonders for your mental well-being and productivity. For example, one may choose to dedicate a couple of hours every morning to sending out resumes before going for a relaxing lunch or workout session. Scheduling interviews during specific hours of the day for research, rehearsal, and performance optimisation can also do wonders for performance.


Additionally, breaking down the job hunt into individual tasks can make the entire process a lot less intimidating. It can be something as simple as a target of five applications each day. To mix things up, one may also choose to update their LinkedIn profile, tidy up their portfolio, or reach out to past colleagues for recommendations and opportunities.


This will not only motivate job seekers to dedicate 100% effort into each job application, but also minimise the chances of panic-applying for roles that do not excite them anyway. More importantly, having a healthy schedule allows job seekers to take breaks without feeling guilty, and boost their odds of landing an all-important confirmation.


Whatever you do, recognise that this too shall pass.


Take breaks and remember that rewards don’t have to come after you’ve landed a job. Having the strength to tough it out and stay in the game is worth celebrating in itself. Because every single day, you’re making progress by refining your profile and practising your interview skills.


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