Singapore’s work ethic is among the ones well-known to the world. Like many other countries, they believe that studying hard and working hard are the keys to living a better life. Singaporeans took this lesson seriously, and in turn, created a work culture that focuses on exceeding expectations. Unfortunately, this resulted in a “workaholic” culture instead, in which employees put in more hours than necessary.
Working overtime is a practice some countries tend to praise or normalize. Ideally, people should only be working 40 hours every week or less. But Singaporeans, especially millennials, work for up to 48 hours. They’re only a little behind India, which renders 52 hours, and on par with China and Mexico.
What companies have to understand — and not just in Singapore — is that overworking isn’t a measure of work ethic. For an organization to develop such, the leaders should be a positive example. When workers feel connected to their leader, they will work hard not by extending their hours but by delivering quality results without compromising their well-being. In other words, they’d work because they care for the company and not only for their personal agendas.
What is Work Ethic?
Work ethic is the ability to uphold an organization’s values. It is a set of attitudes that influence how individuals perform their duties with high moral standards. Work ethic is considered a soft skill. It is a personality trait that allows an individual to make decisions and fulfill duties with positive moral values, such as integrity, responsibility, discipline, humility, and teamwork. If employees have a strong work ethic, they complete their tasks on time and demonstrate professionalism in attitude and appearance.
How to Develop a Strong Work Ethic
As seen in work ethic’s definition, nothing in there said anything about overworking. It even mentioned that tasks should be completed on time, not that more tasks should be completed beyond the given work hours. Hence, one of the first steps to developing a strong work ethic is banishing the workaholic culture.
Below are the five determinants of a strong work ethic:
Professionalism is demonstrated the moment an employee walks into the office. They must be in proper work attire that’s clean and pressed and must remain so when they leave. They should also come on time or earlier so that if they want to have a cup of coffee first, they can do so before working hours start. And when work begins, a professional employee shouldn’t take random breaks in between or change lunch schedules without permission.
Organized and Productive Employees
Employees with a strong work ethic perform an organized set of tasks. Organization is important because it lets employees focus on one task at a time rather than always multitask and finish nothing at the end of the day. Their productivity is measured by output, not hours.
Teamwork and Cooperation
Office politics shouldn’t take place if an organization has a strong work ethic. Everyone must get work done because they want the company to succeed, not because they want to earn praise. They are team players and willingly fulfill the roles assigned to them.
Determination to Succeed
A strong work ethic allows an employee to seek the resources that will fix a problem, not wait for someone else to resolve it for them. They can work with minimal supervision but respect authority and accept guidance.
Consistent and High-quality Work
Employees with consistent and high-quality work exceed expectations, but not because they do more than what needs to be done. Instead, they meet the high standards of professionalism. They deliver clean and organized work, from properly labeled excel spreadsheets to color-coded file folders.
How Business Leaders Should Display a Strong Work Ethic
In Singapore, since hard work is a common value, Singaporean companies should encourage it but not demonstrate it through overworking. Instead, business leaders should be able to identify with their employees and customers. This will allow them to set more realistic goals and foster a stronger rapport within their organization.
SMRT CEO Neo Kian Hong is a good example of a business leader with a strong work ethic. He rebuked former SMRT CEO’s claim that the company’s troubles stemmed from “deep-seated cultural issues.” Mr. Neo stated that for staff to perform well, good leadership is essential.
Hence, Mr. Neo has painted himself as a “fellow commuter,” relying on public transport daily instead of driving his own car. He also personally visits SMRT’s engineering crew in the day and at night. This allowed him to develop employees that take pride in their work and are committed to doing their best.
An empathetic leader who acts according to their company’s values will encourage an organization to follow their example. They can foster a culture of unity, respect, and integrity toward their company without incorporating office politics or forcing employees to put work before their lives. That’s the strongest work ethic they can develop.