Office workers 'stuck' in 9-to-5 doldrums

By Hai Hien   March 28, 2023 | 08:48 pm PT
Every morning before work, Chu Hang considers not showing up. "Shall I take leave today?" she muses before tiredly stepping into her bathroom to get ready.

The first step towards getting out the door and into her work world is smiling in the mirror and whispering words of encouragement to herself.

Hang said her self-encouragement session usually entails a few minutes of reminding herself about the benefits brought by her job, including an income that helps cover life expenses, health insurance, and year-end bonuses.

Then, and only after a few deep breaths, can the 31-year-old Hanoi office employee muster the wherewithal to go to her telecommunications company job in the capital.

Hang suffers from insomnia every night. Her high-pressure job consumes most of the time that could otherwise be spent with her family and on self-care.

"I’m so sick of my job," she says.

However, Hang doesn’t dare to quit because she doesn’t think she can find another job at the same pay rate.

"But is it appropriate if I stay like this until the end of my life?" Hang often asks herself, knowing that there is no one definitive correct answer.

Chu Hang arrives home after working a weekend shift at her job in March, 2023. Photo: provided by herself.

Chu Hang arrives home after working a weekend shift at her job in March, 2023. Photo: provided by herself.

Hoang Vinh, a Ho Chi Minh City resident who also works for a telecommunications company, leaves home early in the morning and comes back late at night. He has to field work phone calls 24/7, sometimes even in the middle of the night on weekends.

His job is the only thing around which his entire life revolves. These days he often argues with his supervisor. Every time he does not meet his Key Performance Indicates, he’s insulted by his superiors.

"Whenever I get into an argument with my supervisor, I think of quitting," Vinh laments.

Still, the 40-year-old man acknowledges that the higher someone's age is, the fewer career opportunities there are for them. And people in this demographic are more often than not their families' breadwinners.

Around 8% among people of working age worldwide have experienced, or are experiencing, situations similar to Chu Hang and Hoang Vinh, according to a survey by Aon Hewit, a U.S.-based international Human Resources and Outsourcing company.

Such workers lose interest in their jobs and feel stuck and unmotivated, but they don’t quit.

Aon Hewitt regarded those who hate their job but won’t quit as "prisoners." They are often able to find other jobs, but their negative thinking prevents them from applying.

Often thoughts like "there’s no opportunity for me" or "this job doesn’t pay more than my current job" ring around in their heads and demotivate them.

While this is no longer a new trend, it’s still worth worrying about in Vietnam.

Do Minh Cuong, Deputy Director of the Institute of Business Culture said: "Each person has a different level of needs. When their needs are not met, they get demotivated easily."


Having worked in the field of Human Resources for 17 years, Thanh Huong, Head of the Department of Human Resource Planning and Policy at a company that owns over 20 brands in Vietnam, said another reason continue to work jobs despite dissatisfaction is their fear of change.

"Staying in their comfort zone for too long can easily make a person become lazy, as well as lose their courage to break through. Habits, fear of change, worries about deteriorating skills, all of these contribute making them accept a reality in which their needs are not met," said Huong.

Chu Hang’s stress, insomnia and nightmares may be attributed to the above bleak outlook.

And because she’s so physically tired, she also has a short temper, which her children now fear.

Hoang Vinh’s conscience has also troubled him for a long time. Negative feelings like low self-esteem and hopelessness make him feel depressed. He cannot focus his mind on his job, and he’s lost all previous enthusiasm for his work.

As a result, while his colleagues are being promoted to higher positions and get higher salaries, Vinh is still in his dead-end role at the company. During the most recent staff evaluation process, he fell into the category of "to be considered," which means that if the company begins to struggle more, he could be fired.

According to Thanh Huong, these negative attitudes can spread contagiously through a toxic workplace making the other colleagues feel dispirited and creating a depressed atmosphere for the whole company and decreased general productivity.

Cuong suggests employees to clearly identify their career goals in order to not be affected by temporary feelings while working. If deep-rooted personal problems are not solved, then workers will simply carry their depression from one job to the next even if they do decide to make a change.

He said that creating a satisfying work-life balance is essential to rejuvenating life at the workplace.

As both her home and work life are now being negatively affected by her current situation, Hang has been ranking last in her company’s employee performance evaluations, which is causing problems in her department.

Her company has just had a staff cutback and a department merger, so Hang’s boss is planning to assign her to another department. However, none of the existing departments in the company wants her.

"I will probably be assigned to a wholly different job, and my salary and bonuses will considerably regress," Hang said.

go to top