All interviewees have had their names changed at their request.
The other is to quit your stable, full-time job during a pandemic that has ravaged the economy, leading to the loss of thousands of jobs
. In fact, just today (14 September), The Straits Times reported that “Retrenchments in Singapore more than double to 8,130 in Q2”.
Yet, it seems that each week I hear about someone who has resigned without a new job offer in their pocket. These anecdotes grew so frequent that I couldn’t help but poke around and ask: What on earth was going through these people’s mind?
Why are they tendering their resignations now, in the worst economy Singapore has experienced in over a decade?
“Mental well-being cannot be compromised”: Sebastian, 28, digital marketing
Sebastian decided to quit his job because of, not despite, the pandemic.
Granted, his reasons for leaving were not specifically caused by the pandemic: he struggled to find meaning in his work, lacked confidence in the way his company was run, and had no work-life balance.
But the pandemic, and the circuit breaker it instituted, threw these shortcomings into sharper relief.
Many of us see working from home as a silver lining of the pandemic. We get to wake up ten minutes before work officially starts; we save on commute time and fees; we can wear comfy pyjamas while typing an email to the director of a statutory board.
For Sebastian, however, working from home made him more discontented with his job.
With telecommuting’s “bigger emphasis on getting the job done rather than being in the office,” Sebastian realised that being in the office and bouncing ideas off his “gam colleagues” formed a large part of why he enjoyed his job the past two years-not because of the work he was doing per se.
As he puts it, “the pandemic has stripped the job to the work itself … and exposed the mundanity of [my] work”.
Another thing that the pandemic has stripped was the polished veneer of his company.
“There was a lack of transparency,” Sebastian gripes. “We had no update on how the company was doing during this period.”
Sebastian and his colleagues “only knew their company wasn’t doing too well” because they found out-without any official communication from the management-that people were leaving and being laid off.
Eventually, these factors made his situation so unbearable as to “incentivise him to find something else outside,” Sebastian concludes.
The pandemic has stripped the job to the work itself … and exposed the mundanity of work.
Wasn’t Sebastian worried about finding a new job in this climate?
“Even if I don’t get something soon, it’s good to take a break,” Sebastian replies. “I’d rather take that break than spend another two months here feeling upset.”
Sebastian admits that this is a privilege afforded to him because he has no financial liabilities and enough savings to tide him through these months. Moreover, his parents were supportive of his desire to leave his job-which surprised me.
Hearing the disbelief in my voice, Sebastian explains, “My parents actually have a traditional mind-set. In any other normal working condition, they would have asked me to think twice, or at least get a job, before quitting.”
But now that Sebastian has been spending all his time at home working, his parents could witness, first-hand, how his working hours regularly stretched till 2 AM in the morning; his weekends weren’t spared from work, either.
To Sebastian, these were conditions that came with the territory of working in an agency.
Seeing his parents’ concern at his unhealthy working hours, however, made him realise that they were unsustainable and detrimental not just to himself, but his relationships with his family.
And so, Sebastian tells me with an embarrassed chuckle, the first thing his parents said when he tendered was: “Finally!”
“Quitting my job actually gave me a fresh perspective. At the end of the day, our mental well-being and future should take priority over job security. Those are things that cannot be compromised.”
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