One year after circuit breaker

More work and less socialising - that has been the impact felt by many people since the circuit breaker last year, according to a Straits Times poll.

It found that 52 per cent of those who were employed felt their workload had become heavier than before the lockdown.

Of the 1,000 respondents, 61 per cent said they now socialise less frequently with those outside their immediate family than before the restrictions were put in place last April.

Forty-four per cent also reported that their social circles outside of their immediate family had shrunk over the past year.

And, while 20 per cent socialise with their immediate family more frequently now, another 23 per cent said they do so less frequently.

The online poll of residents aged 16 and above, commissioned by The Straits Times, found that 27 per cent reported growing closer to their family, while 7 per cent said they were no longer as close.

The circuit breaker period from April 7 to June 1 last year included a ban on dining in at eateries, curbs on people leaving their homes except for essential reasons, and the closure of workplaces and schools.

Restrictions have since been eased gradually, with major life events and festivals becoming much more muted affairs.

Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser from the sociology department of the National University of Singapore's Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences said people may socialise less with their friends and colleagues for a variety of reasons.

Some may have become used to keeping in touch via digital means rather than meeting in person, while others are busier as a result of an increased workload due to working from home, and cannot meet their colleagues as they are not back in the office.

Prof Tan said that it is important for people to maintain and expand their social networks, given the benefits this brings, such as social support and information sharing.

The year since the circuit breaker began has seen many other changes as well, noted the poll, which was carried out by Milieu Insight from March 25 to 29.

About 60 per cent of people picked up a new skill or hobby, with 94 per cent of this group saying they were still using or pursuing at least some or a few of their new skills or hobbies now.

The poll unearthed downsides as well - 36 per cent said their mental health had worsened.

People also reported increased digitalisation in their lives. Almost two-thirds said they were now more likely to use cashless payments, and 46 per cent reckoned they were more likely to have food delivered than to choose other dining options.

Most respondents felt that the pandemic had lasted longer than expected, and many said they were either just as likely or more likely to observe safe management measures than they were a year ago.

Prof Tan said a finding of the poll that 52 per cent of those employed felt their workload had increased since the circuit breaker began could be due to headcount reduction or working from home blurring the boundary between work and non-work time.

This could have resulted in a stronger pressure to respond to e-mails immediately at any time of the day.

The Straits Times

"I think the increasing pace of work life was already happening before the pandemic. The pandemic merely makes it worse."

- Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser from the sociology department of the National University of Singapore's Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


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