More than half of Singaporean companies have ‘mentally absent’ employees

01 August 2016

According to independent research by specialist recruiter Robert Half, more than half (57 per cent) of Singaporean businesses have experienced ‘inner resignation’, where staff members are present physically but are mentally absent from their job. 

Inner resignation tends to be more common in medium-sized and larger companies with 68 per cent saying they have seen it happen versus 32 per cent of small organisations1. Only 33 per cent of Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and finance directors say their business is not impacted by inner resignation – a figure that rises to 68 per cent in SMEs.

Businesses adopt multiple strategies to keep employees engaged

The vast majority (97 per cent) of finance leaders use a range of strategies to prevent inner resignation. Over half (67 per cent) of businesses promote employee appreciation, rewards and recognition. This is followed by 49 per cent who encourage open communication. Less than half (47 per cent) ensure the employee fits the job and 35 per cent provide feedback to make sure they are aware if employees are doubting their decision to stay at the company.

Initiatives undertaken to avoid inner resignation

Employee appreciation, rewards and recognition 67%
Foster open communication and feedback  49%
Ensure job fits the employee 47%
Provide personal development and training 35%
Avoid passing on pressure to employees 25%
Promote top employees 21%
Run internal employee survey 14%

Source: Independent survey commissioned by Robert Half among 150 Singaporean CFOs and finance directors – multiple answers allowed.

David Jones, Senior Managing Director Robert Half Asia Pacific said: “Inner resignation is often overlooked by employers, especially in workplaces where employees are left alone to get on with their job. Employers need to be more vigilant in looking for signs that an employee is mentally disengaged, such as a lack of motivation for bonuses or advancement or a drop in productivity.”

“To reduce the risk of inner resignation, employers need to keep the lines of communication open with their staff so that the employees feel confident they can raise their concerns without fear of reprisals.  If workplace concerns are responded to early, then there is less chance of employees becoming disengaged from their work.”

“Employees also need to take responsibility for their satisfaction at work.  If an employee finds they have accepted inner resignation, then they should identify the cause of their dissatisfaction and raise the matter with their employer during their performance review.  If the issue cannot be resolved then they are better off seeking a new job than lingering in a role they are unhappy with,” added David Jones.

Robert Half offers some tips for both employers and employees to avoid/address inner resignation:

For employers

  • Foster a workplace where employees are able to express their views with confidence.
  • Provide constructive feedback. 
  • Take an interest in your employees – and treat workplace complaints seriously.
  • Emphasise common goals.
  • Improve office culture by creating a positive work environment.
  • Ensure salaries are adequate.

For employees 

  • Set personal goals. 
  • Challenge yourself.
  • Speak up if you have concerns. 
  • Offer suggestions for positive change. 
  • Let your employer know what motivates you.


1Company Size Definitions
Number of staff in the respondent's business

Small 50 - 149 staff
Medium 150 - 499 staff 
Large 500+ staff


About the research

The annual study is developed by Robert Half and conducted by an independent research firm, surveying 100 Chief Financial Officers (CFO) and finance directors in Singapore. This survey is part of the international workplace survey, a questionnaire about job trends, talent management and trends in the workplace.

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