Mental Health in the Workplace – Tips for Employers

Mental Health in the Workplace – Tips for Employers

Mental Health in the Workplace – Tips for Employers

There is no denying that the UAE is a desirable place to work. The opportunities in a growing economy, the diversity as an international hub, and the reputation for increased earning capacity and quality of life are all attractive factors to entice people to choose the UAE as their base. However, employee burnout is a global issue, and believe it or not, the UAE is no exception. 

What’s the evidence?

Research has shown that burnout is a major problem in the UAE workforce, with many employees reporting high levels of stress and job dissatisfaction. A study conducted by KPMG in 2020 found that 66% of employees in the UAE experienced burnout in the previous 12 months, with 80% attributing it to work-related factors. The main contributors to burnout were long working hours, high workload, and lack of work-life balance.

Another study by job site found that 46% of UAE employees experienced burnout in 2019, with 70% attributing it to work-related factors. Contributing factors were more interpersonal – a lack of recognition, lack of support from management, and low job satisfaction.

Why might this be?

Well, all those desirables I mentioned earlier understandably come with a downside – we can’t have it all right?? In order to thrive in this growing economy and maintain job security, there is a tendency to have to work longer hours, with a higher workload and often tight deadlines. High expectations also feel the norm, the competitive and ambitious work culture here has its advantages but also understandably leads to a pressure to perform which can add to stress levels. 

Why do we need to talk about this?

Mental health problems can affect anyone, regardless of their job title or position. The workplace can be a significant source of stress, which can contribute to the development of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy an estimated $1 trillion each year in lost productivity. 

The impact of neglecting employee wellbeing can be significant, including burnout and physical and mental health problems. The impact of neglecting employee wellbeing on employers is also significant. For instance:

  • Increased absenteeism
  • Decreased productivity 
  • Increased healthcare costs
  • Higher staff turnover rates
  • Negative impact on workplace culture
  • Decreased customer satisfaction 

So, what can I do about this?

Of course, the demands of working in certain roles in the UAE are unlikely to go away, and employers have the tricky job of balancing employee wellbeing with targets and business goals. BUT given the impact of burnout on productivity and absenteeism as mentioned above, investing in employee wellbeing will likely lead to enhanced progress towards business goals rather than hinderance.

Some ways to start addressing the balance include: 

  1. Promote work-life balance 

Encourage employees to take breaks. My earlier blog on 6 benefits of prioritizing breaks highlights why this is helpful. Is there scope for a flexible work schedule that promotes work/life balance whilst still maintaining the contractual hours? Are there remote working options on some days? If an employee is struggling with their mental health, reduced hours on a temporary basis can be helpful, and you are likely to find they are able to be more focused in those hours, so productivity doesn’t necessarily decrease to accommodate this. 

  1. Set realistic expectations

Is the workload manageable for the majority of people? Are the deadlines realistic for the volume of work that needs to be done? If an unavoidable tight deadline means an increase in working hours, is there scope for the time to be taken back later and is this encouraged enough? 

  1. Recognize and reward

Acknowledge and reward employees for their hard work and contributions or specific achievements. This can be frequent and informal or on a more formal basis – like an Employee Recognition Program – however watch out that the latter doesn’t breed more competition than contentment. 

  1. Foster a positive work environment 

A positive work environment is one which is supportive and encouraging, values employee well-being and encourages teamwork, communication, and collaboration. Conversations are curious and open-minded rather than judgmental, and responses are compassionate, validating and solution focused.

  1. Offer regular check ins 

How often are you able to ask how your employees are? Perhaps dedicate 10 minutes at the start of any one-to-one meetings to check in on general wellbeing, and work/life balance. Or schedule in this check in purposefully, perhaps bi-monthly if that is more realistic than monthly initially. Are they sufficiently challenged? Are they feeling sufficiently on top of things and if not, what might be getting in the way? How are the team dynamics? Be curious and open to negotiating where things could be put into place to help if anything is being flagged up.

  1. Employee Wellbeing Initiatives 

This could be anything from advertising local resources and talks to setting up a specific wellbeing offer/package in-house or in collaboration with local healthcare companies. 

  • Seek and provide training on Mental Health and Stress Management  

Again, you could reach out to local services to provide training on mental health in the workplace and/or specifically stress and burnout. Ensure managers and supervisors are aware of the key signs to watch out for, along with some of the helpful ways of approaching conversations. Doing this may also help reduce stigma – and could include organizing mental health awareness campaigns whilst promoting a culture of acceptance and support.

Addressing and enhancing employee wellbeing can have a huge positive impact on the employees, the organization, its culture and its productivity. At Sage Clinics we are happy to support in any way we can – if you think your workplace could benefit from this, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to think together about what might be helpful. 

Written by: Dr Gurveen Ranger

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