Despite the long hours Singaporeans spend toiling away at work, productivity has been lacklustre for years. For many employers, the only way to raise productivity is to pile more work on their employees, and the only advantage of the PIC scheme is that they got to buy new iPads.
As an employee, it can be hard to try to raise your own productivity when all around you your colleagues are trying to finish their daily tasks as slowly as possible so they can hang around the office till late at night.
On the other hand, being more productive can make you a more valuable employee who can command a higher salary, if not at your current workplace, then at the next place you move on to.
But that's not going to work if you mindlessly try to raise your productivity in the following ways.
Doing more work in exactly the same way
Employers in Singapore think of raising productivity like trying to squeeze a sponge dry. When they realise they need to cut costs, one common response is to lay off a few people, and then pile their work on the remaining employees.
If you find your workload increasing every year and you're doing the exact same things in exactly the same way while just working longer and longer hours, you'll just run yourself into the ground without becoming a more valuable employee.
Becoming more productive should be about doing your work in a smarter, faster way, rather than taking on more work and doing it in exactly the same way. If you're only doing the latter, don't be surprised if your boss just gives you more work-for the same pay.
Some self-awareness can save you from years of shame, no doubt, as anybody who's ever watched the audition portion of Singapore Idol would tell you. But monitoring productivity to the point of obsession creates so much extra work that you end up becoming less productive.
Employers sometimes go completely nuts when it comes to implementing monitoring measures. I once worked for an employer who insisted we submit timesheets documenting every single thing we spent time on every single day-including lunch breaks and phone calls.
Obviously, everybody just made up everything on their timesheets.
Another employer insisted we account for every single piece of paper we printed, and turned taking a pencil from the stationery cabinet into a 3-step process which involved at least two people from the HR department.
Everybody's suitably afraid of getting retrenched after the rough year that just passed, in which lay-offs hit a 7-year high.
For many employees, some form of skills upgrading is going to be necessary as they progress in their careers in order to ensure they remain employable. But that doesn't mean that enrolling for any old SkillsFuture course is going to keep you relevant.
Your employer is only going to be willing to pay you more money if you new skills help him make more money.
So don't think that going for a SkillsFuture course on "intercultural communication" will bag you a raise just because there are a few foreign employees in your company.
Promotions without a raise
Don't be too eager to treat all your friends to a bucket of champagne when your boss announces that you're receiving a promotion.
Turns out it's actually fairly common for Singapore employees to give promotions without a pay rise. Often, this happens because they urgently need to fill the position, so why not just dump the extra responsibilities on an existing employee?
In fact, if you've been promoted without a raise, that's a clear sign you should actually start hunting for a new job soon, since your new responsibilities will help you command a better salary elsewhere.
Dysfunctional team efforts
Two heads are better than one… but only in theory. Employers often think that team efforts will propel a project forward and are preferable to having everyone work in silos.
But in reality, workplace dynamics are often so woefully dysfunctional that team efforts end up being a huge waste of time.
One of the biggest culprits is long, pointless meetings that go on and on, with everyone either sleeping or wayanging, but accomplish nothing. Then there are colleagues who don't pull their weight or are incompetent, end up slowing everyone else down.
If you have a particularly large number of assholes on your team, the project might fall prey to politicking and power struggles.
In order for team efforts to be effective, you need a good leader in charge and to ensure the different personalities are able to work together effectively. Otherwise, you might be better off trying to work on your own whenever possible.