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These are the happiest workers in SEA during COVID-19, according to this survey

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A recent survey conducted by research and analytics company Milieu Insight has revealed the top causes for happiness and unhappiness among Southeast Asians today.

In conjunction with this year’s International Week of Happiness at Work, which runs from September 20 to 26, 2021, the company released the results of their “Happiness at Work” survey, which compiled the answers of no less than 6,800 working professionals from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

IMAGE: Milieu

Across the region, it was observed that the levels of happiness compared to a year ago are mixed among employees, with 35 percent saying that they were happier in 2021 compared to 2020.

26 percent said that they felt less happy, while 39 percent said they didn’t feel any differently.

Looking at the results on a country-by-country basis, Thailand was shown to be the country with the biggest drop in dissatisfaction levels among workers compared to a year ago (44 percent less happy), while Indonesia proved to be on the other end of that spectrum (44 percent happier today).

Vietnam (41 percent) and the Philippines (42 percent) also recorded that their employees were happier today compared to a year ago, while Malaysia (43 percent no change) and Singapore (41 percent no change) showed a more balanced distribution overall.

More interesting was the fact that 80 percent of working Southeast Asians said they actually felt a sense of belonging within their companies, while 78 percent agreed that their companies successfully provided them with the tools they needed to get their jobs done effectively.

Specific factors influencing SEA employee happiness levels.

For employers looking to gauge the factors that make their employees more satisfied or less so, the survey also pointed out a few noteworthy things that may influence overall happiness levels.

According to the survey, the notable factors influencing happiness levels among SEA employees include:

1. Salary.
2. Relationships with other employees.
3. Current working conditions.
4. Opportunities for growth.
5. Company benefits.
6. Meaning behind the work.
7. Workload.
8. Relationships with client and/or customers.
9. Level of appreciation/recognition from the company.
10. Company culture.
11. O
thers.

IMAGE: Milieu

Among the things that made employees happy, the top two factors were salary and the relationships between co-workers.

On the other hand, the item that made employees the most unhappy with their work life (25 percent) was their current working arrangements – hardly a surprise considering the work-from-home (WFH) culture practiced all around the world over the past year and a half.

This factor can also be considered to be quite polarizing, considering that 35 percent of respondents said that they were happy with their current working arrangements.

Some will say that WFH is great, while many others will disagree heavily. IMAGE: American University in Cairo

That said, employers that want to really understand the preferences of their employees regarding work arrangements moving forward ought to gauge opinions personally, especially when there’s mixed opinion regarding the WFH culture depending on who you ask these days.

“It was fascinating to see that ‘relationships at work’ ranked so high as a driver of happiness, and that it ranked as high as their salary,” said Stephen Tracy, CEO of Milieu Insight.

“As we approach two years of living with the effects of COVID-19, employees are beginning to desire stronger connections with their colleagues, even if those connections must be nurtured remotely.”

“Business leaders shouldn’t overlook the importance of cultivating strong employee relationships and succeeding with this requires more than a subscription to collaboration tools like Zoom or Teams.”

Key takeaways from the survey:

1. Workers in Thailand are generally unhappier compared to a year ago, while workers in Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines are generally happier in 2021 compared to 2020. Workers in Malaysia and Singapore have largely retained the same happiness levels across both years.

2. Salary and relationships with other co-workers were the top two causes of happiness for SEA-based workers. While a large number also enjoy their working conditions during the pandemic (WFH, remote working, etc), the same factor was also the biggest cause of unhappiness.

IMAGE: TechRepublic

3. Employers aiming to up their workplace happiness levels will want to consider facilitating better relationships among co-workers in addition to paying a competitive salary.

4. There is no uniform agreement among SEA workers as to whether new-normal working conditions like WFH are better or worse. Employers should seek out opinions on the individual level to make decisions for the future.

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Cover image sourced from Free Malaysia Today and rawpixel.com on Freepik.

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