| |

Essential or non-essential: Only you can make that decision

Straits Times commissioned Milieu Insight, a Singapore-based consumer research firm to carry out. The online survey of around 1,000 respondents aged 16 and above was done from June 5 to 8 with a nationally representative sampling across age, gender and income groups to capture how people’s perceptions of essential workers have changed, if at all, against the backdrop of Covid-19, and whether they would be willing to pay these workers more.

The purpose of the survey is sound and I think Straits Times did a great job splitting the survey results into multiple news articles, including an infographic that went viral because artists were up in arms about being ranked number 1 in non-essential jobs.

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

Every week, I’ll be sharing practical tips and invaluable knowledge to guide you on your path to financial independence.

Are the top 5 non-essential jobs truly non-essential?

I feel that the survey results doesn’t matter in the broader sense because these jobs aren’t being funded by the public, but the employers. If your employers are silly enough to take these results as facts and implement pay cuts for these jobs, then I encourage you to move on instead of wasting your time working for silly employers.

Looking at the results from the perspective of business leaders, I would think that these non-essential jobs are in fact, some of the most essential jobs that businesses would require.

Here’s why.


Because of Covid-19, everyone is forced to stay at home as much as possible and these artists are offering their performances that were previously paid, for free on social media channels. During their live streams, I would argue that they are capturing a much higher quality of viewership than mainstream media like our Mediacorp channels.

These professional artists are delivering high quality content in a space that is primarily dominated by influencers, giving them a run for their money.

If I were a business leader who primarily advertises on mainstream media, I’d retract all the advertising dollars and work with these artists to advertise or create sponsored content. This will allow me to stretch every dollar because I’m removing the middleman (MediaCorp) and working directly with artists to micro-sponsor their live stream performances to reach my target audience.


Adapting to government regulations to curb the pandemic, we are seeing a steep drop in revenue brought in by outside sales and business development teams that businesses have been dependent on in the past. This is because there’s no way these sales teams to meet their customers face to face and they are still transitioning both themselves and their customers to the new way of working – video conferencing.

While many customers are switching to purchasing online, there are some things that customers want to purchase through a human. When I was looking to reprice my home mortgage loan recently, I wasn’t comfortable with performing the repricing application through the online banking platform directly. This was because I had so many questions that needed to be answered before I am confident enough to performed the transaction.

I managed to get all my answers from a telemarketer with assurances that my understanding of the promotion term were correct. That gave me the confidence to make the informed decision to proceed.

Telemarketers are picking up the slack now for customers like me who need advice and explanation about products and services before taking action. If done right, telemarketers may even overtake other sales channels to become the top selling team for this quarter.

Social media manager

The Covid-19 situation created a lot of confusion and inconveniences to customers and they are all using the easiest way to get their questions answered – by asking on social media.

Your social media manager is already wearing 2 hats.

  1. Publishing engaging contents on social media to engage their target audience and increase brand awareness.
  2. Provide customer support by answering questions in the company’s Facebook page and private messages.

Prior Covid-19, social media managers may be spending 20-30% of their time to respond to questions from customers. Now, they could be spending as much as 50-80% of their time doing that.

If you take your social media managers out of the picture, your customers will be taking their questions to your call center and your hotline will explode. Customers who can’t get through to your customer service officers will take their dissatisfaction to social media and that will eventually destroy your brand in the long run.

Business consultant

The job scope of a business consultant varies so much that it’s hard to talk about this unless we properly define who exactly is a business consultant, just for the purpose of this article.

Here’s how Wikipedia defines a business consultant.

A business consultant is a professional who provides professional or expert advice in a particular area such as security, management, accountancy, law, human resources, marketing, finance, engineering, science or any of many other specialized fields.

If anything, Covid-19 escalated things really quickly. Businesses are struggling to pivot fast enough to catch up with all the changes around them so that they do not get left behind.

There are only 2 choices – adapt or perish.

Business consultants can help to provide a new perspective to business leaders who are too involved in the business and suffer from tunnel vision. They are the experts in their fields who can hopefully help the business pivot and transition faster than their competitors. 

To reject the expertise and help from business consultants and choosing to fend for yourself amongst all the uncertainty, may just be the most direct path to destroy a business.

Human resource manager

The job of a human resource manager is severely underrated in most companies and are often ignored because they tend to work behind the scenes and don’t get the recognition they deserve.

With labour costs accounting for a large chunk of a company’s profit & loss statement, it’s natural for senior leaders to look at trimming any fat they can find in this category. Human resource managers will be hard pressed to come up with ideas on how to manage the company’s labour costs.

If the senior leaders have decided on cutting pay because there just isn’t any revenue, human resource managers will need to think of how they can execute this fairly so that employees do not decide all decide to resign the next day, or even worse, lodge a complaint with the Ministry of Manpower. It gets worse when they have to perform a retrenchment exercise.

The Covid-19 situation also forced human resource managers to relook at existing practices and redesign them to fit into the ‘new normal’.

For new employees, human resource managers have to change the way they conduct new hire orientation, ensure office equipment are provisioned and delivered to each employee. On top of that, they have to find new ways to make new employees feel welcome to the organisation.

As for the medical benefits that employees are enjoying today. New initiatives such as telemedicine have to be rolled out quickly to allow employees to see a doctor safely and receive prescribed medicine.

The survey results itself, is non-essential

It doesn’t matter what the survey results show. Neither does it matter what the public thinks about your job title.

It’s how you treat your job and continue to do what’s essential to ensure the business operates smoothly wherever you are working from.

It’s also up to you to exceed the expectations of your bosses and customers to show them that you will deliver quality work, no matter what.

Nobody gets to decide if you’re essential or non-essential to the company, except yourself.

Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *