Almost 70 per cent of residents said that they expect more mental health support from their employers
UAE residents have remain resilient in the face of the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, with the country’s health and well-being index showing a marked improvement compared to the global average.
According to the fifth edition of the Cigna Covid-19 Global Impact Study, the UAE wrapped up 2020 with a strong performance on the overall Wellbeing Index compared to other markets, with a score of 67.4 points in December, up by 1.8 points. The global average, on the other hand, was 60.9 points in December. The survey showed improvements in the physical, family, social, financial, and work health aspects of residents, as life returned to a semblance of normalcy in the UAE.
“The government has played a vital role in preserving the good health, positivity, and well-being of its population,” said Jerome Droesch, CEO of Cigna MEA and SEA. “The UAE’s survey results are a testament to the sustained efforts of the leadership and the business community in managing the crisis and ensuring transparency, taking care that people have access to information and healthcare even in the most exceptional circumstances. The majority of the country’s residents appear more aware of their health needs and are making the effort needed to manage their health better.”
The index revealed that 68 per cent of UAE employees reported work-related stress, registering the highest stress levels since January 2020. The prevailing always-on culture, which consistently recorded high levels of around 93 per cent through 2020, has led to increased stress levels, despite 75 per cent reporting a reasonable workload in December. Reassuringly, 79 per cent found their stress to be manageable. In addition, 69 per cent said that they expect more mental health support from their employers, while 64 per cent seek flexibility in work location and hours.
Several UAE organisations have also stressed the importance of extending support to employees during this difficult time. James Michael Lafferty, CEO of Fine Hygienic Holding, shared how the company has launched a comprehensive wellness programme for all staff which includes gym co-payment to encourage employees to look after themselves, free virtual exercise classes for the team, and various internal fitness challenges and wellness sessions.
“Taking care of people means many facets, but physical and mental well-being are certainly top of the list,” he said. “I know, personally, how important physical and mental health is to my productivity as well as living a ‘good life’. Experience has taught me that all the leading brands understand this equation. You are simply not going to get the best out of your staff if you do not look after their physical and mental wellbeing – and believe me, both of these components are of equal importance for a functioning individual and the wider office environment.”
“We always think of our staff and consider every eventuality and, to that end, we launched an unprecedented 24/7 counselling hotline programme that provides confidential support to address mental health issues and concerns related to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he added. “This programme was administered by qualified psychologists in several languages and was available to all employees and their immediate family members. In an effort to address the work-life balance challenge, Fine also introduced a ‘Work from Anywhere’ policy last year which allows all employees to work remotely one day per week. We value our team, and when it comes to employee support, we walk the walk.”