By Jelica R. Enriquez
Filipinos, in general, are happy people. We smile at strangers, warmly greet our guests, and even take pictures during a calamity. A core testament to our happy-go-lucky disposition is using one of the most common Filipino phrases, “bahala na,” or come what may.
We are optimistic in any given situation. It is no surprise that the Philippines ranked the second happiest country in Southeast Asia and placed 60th worldwide in the World Happiness Report. But recent studies on Filipino employees exhibit a stark contrast to our cheerful nature.
Gallup reported that Filipino workers are the most stressed workers in Southeast Asia. In another study by Microsoft, Filipinos are the most overworked employees. Prevalent literature suggests that as happiness increases, perceived stress decreases. This dichotomy between happiness and work stress raises the question if Filipinos are happy.
Scholars consider happiness as psychological well-being, which includes positive emotions and life satisfaction. For psychologist Therese Castillo, the Filipinos’ sense of happiness can be attributed to our ability to cope. Filipinos have developed inherent coping skills due to a lack of privilege. In a country where millions live under the poverty line and experience more natural disasters than any other nation, Filipinos deal with adversities with limited resources. We use our sense of humor, sing and literally dance our troubles away.
Dr. Castillo added that happiness is related to the quality of life and well-being. The COVID-19 pandemic heightened stress and drove many Filipinos to isolation and poor health. This prompted Philippine employers to implement mental health and well-being programs. They also introduce flexible work arrangements in response to the ever-shifting environment.
My organization offers various well-being services. It reinforced these services during the onset of the pandemic, providing tele-counselling, tele-psychology, referral and consultation services. It also invited employees to attend virtual wellness seminars and kamustahan or dialogue sessions. It emailed mental health tips. We also observed flexible work arrangements.
Although I find these services helpful, I ask myself if such programs are adequate to promote the overall well-being of employees. Do employees feel less stressed after attending wellness webinars? Do they feel more engaged after availing of these services? Do they learn better coping strategies? Do they feel happy?
Gallup advocates for a holistic well-being approach. Aside from providing wellness programs, companies are recommended to capture the employees’ social, financial, career, and community well-being. This seems a tall order, particularly for companies with limited means.
Nevertheless, this is an opportunity for the company leaders to offer holistic positive well-being.
Companies should also examine how well-being affects employee performance. A data-driven evaluation allows company leaders to identify which wellness programs are truly effective. It helps them to assess their current initiatives and make improvements.
Most importantly, company leaders should champion employee care. Research indicates that when employees feel that their organization cares about their well-being, this translates into high positive emotions. If the company leaders actively listen to their employees and give the necessary support, employees will become more engaged.
Organizations should not be complacent. We should not rely on the so-called Filipino resilience. As we continue to learn about living in a post-pandemic environment, we must provide the necessary support to our employees. Only then can we improve our quality of life, feel content and achieve genuine happiness.
Jelica R. Enriquez is a faculty member of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde. She is a DBA student at the RVR-College of Business, De La Salle University. She can be reached at email@example.com.
The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU its faculty, and its administrators.