Special Report – Work shift = stress


All jobs can be stressful, but working shifts compounds the problem.

Macau Business | May 2023 | Special Report | Wellbeing and wellness

There are no official statistics, but the SAR certainly boasts one of the highest proportions of shift workers in the world, as the region’s main industries, tourism and gaming, operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To what extent this increases the stress level of these people and those around them is what we asked two experts.

Kim Kuok, Senior Instructor in Management at the Faculty of Business Administration at the University of Macau, has researched this topic and explained that stress arises when people feel the demands on their lives are beyond their capabilities to handle. “When people consider the various demands of their lives to be out of their capabilities to handle, stress exists, and they would have various kinds of physiological and/or psychological responses. In other words, stress is a perception process, which would have an impact on people physically and psychologically.”

Professor Kuok added that “as tourism and gaming are the main industries of Macau, the nature of these industries requires employees to work in shifts, which can easily create work-life balance problems. In addition, work-family conflicts may happen, and the social lives of employees are easily affected.” Moreover, “Family and friends are two important social sources, which can help people to cope with their experienced stress, and they may not work properly for employees in these industries,” she told Macau Business.

Beatriz Madureira, Associate Director of Human Resources, who worked in Macau for 12 years, including at gambling concessionaires, concurs that shift work has an adverse effect on the rhythm of sleep and rest. “Stress is a factor that is somehow subjective, since each person can feel more or less stressed in the face of the same event. Naturally, the type of work performed is a greater or lesser factor of stress – those who work in shifts, as is the case with part of the population of the Macau SAR – do not have such a healthy life, since the rhythm of sleep and rest is strongly affected.”

“The type of work performed is a greater or lesser factor of stress – those who work in shifts, as is the case with part of the population of the Macau SAR – do not have such a healthy life, since the rhythm of sleep and rest is strongly affected” – Beatriz Madureira

Kuok added a new argument that, in his opinion, “created many changes and unknowns to society, companies and Macau citizens largely,” the three-years pandemic. “Many people lost their jobs, and/or changed their occupations, which are big changes in lives and stress can be a result. In addition, employees in all types of industries worried whether their companies would be closed or not; whether their companies would lay-off or not; and whether they would be one of those being laid-off or not,” explained the lecturer, responsible for academic disciplines such as Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility, at the Faculty of Business Administration.

“Unknowns in lives and careers can also be stressful for many people,” Dr. Kuok also stated, once, “some of the above problems are actually faced by nearby regions too as they also have industries that require people to work in shifts, and they are also affected by the pandemic too. Furthermore, they may also be facing other problems that we are not facing as well.”

After many years working in Macau, where she lived since she was 2 years old, Beatriz Madureira is now in Portugal. This allows her to look at the reality of Macau from a different distance and realize that “in the Macau SAR everything happens quickly, the pace of work in the private sector is high – perhaps because everything is closer, people stay longer at work because they know they can easily get home,” this despite the fact that traffic has increased considerably in recent years.

“The fact that almost everyone in Macau has some kind of domestic help makes it easier to focus on work,” says Beatriz Madureira, certified in Happiness at Work, who writes on her LinkedIn page, “Happiness is the key to prosperity. Let’s prosper together.”

“To Find Out the Actual Sources of Stress”

“Stress can be industry-specific and job-specific,” warns Kim Kuok, as “different industries have their specific working environment and requirements.”

“A good match between the employee and job is important at the very beginning.” Therefore, “the important issue is not to blame which industry is more stressful but to find out the actual sources of stress for different industries and occupations, and look for ways to deal with the sources and/or help people to cope with the stress they experience in the working environment,” the lecturer said to Macau Business.

These arguments, she argues, “are not just limited to tourism and casinos but for all industries. However, as the gaming industry has comparatively more resources, I believe they can take a leading role in finding out the stressors of their employees and employ methods to assist their employees to cope with work, family, and life stress in order to develop a more sustainable workforce.”

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