The UAE has a strong focus on promoting well-being and driving initiatives to ensure the happiness of the population. This is demonstrated by an elevated overall health and well-being index of 66.2 points, which ranks higher compared to global counterparts. Emerging among the top three most positive markets out of 21 surveyed, the region’s high resilience was evident across social, family, financial health, and within the workplace. As a result of the high vaccination rates, there has been a positive attitude towards mandates protecting and addressing health in the wake of the pandemic.
However, findings from the 2021 Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey have also magnified pressing issues within the workplace. Employees have reportedly suffered from excessive workload, 52 per cent reporting working longer hours when working from home, which is one of the contributing factors towards 50 per cent of the UAE’s workforce wanting to change their jobs and 34 per cent citing a lack of support as a reason. Another key cause has been a lack of mental health support and resources within the workplace, and with selected providers not extending claims to psychiatric and psychological treatments.
This pattern has been most prevalent among younger professionals from 18 to 34 years, which amounts to 55 per cent, who through digital disruption are aware of alternative options and independent career control. Although the sandwich generation, aged 35-59 expressed higher job insecurity on a global average with 45 per cent expecting to change employment in the UAE, compared to 25 per cent globally in the same age group. This age group is also likely to be financially pressured, with their financial well-being index score plummeting to 55.1 in March-April 2021, which is lower than pre-pandemic values.
The pandemic’s unprecedented uncertainty has created an emphasis on people evaluating how they manage their health. 78 per cent of the priority area for individuals is mental and emotional wellbeing. The gap in the support provided towards it in organisations is a definite cause for concern with 34 per cent of those surveyed claiming they lack support and 39 per cent saying they require access to resilience training for mental health. Women have a far larger disparity in mental health support than males, with a staggering 89 per cent recorded having high-stress levels with a 42 per cent unlikelihood of seeking professional mental health support when compared to men.
Meanwhile, 33 per cent of employees reported feeling uncared for or witnessing a lack of understanding on the part of their bosses. Despite being lower than pre-pandemic levels, stress among UAE workers is among the highest in the world, at 88 per cent.
“After a tough year, it is heartening to see overall improved scores across parameters for the UAE, which undoubtedly reflects the incredible efforts of the country’s government in managing the pandemic, yet, there is much work to be done. People have consistently suffered from overwork, which has led to half of the UAE’s working population considering leaving their jobs. There is a wide gap in the workplace wellness of the country’s citizens and residents, who are among the most stressed in the world. It is time that employers step up and offer more care and support to their staff. We need to work as a community to raise awareness and drive positive change on this front,” said Jerome Droesch, CEO, Cigna Middle East and Africa (MEA) and South East Asia (SEA).
Jerome Droesch, CEO, Cigna MEA and SEA
In a recent roundtable held by Cigna, these findings were shared to discuss solutions that can help employers understand and implement strategies to retain their workforce. Hybrid models of work have surfaced, with benefits such as more time spent with the family, a safer environment created through avoidance of excessive contact, time saved on a commute through balanced work models, interactions with colleagues resumed through face-to-face interactions, and physical returns. As the pandemic evolves, so does the mindset of individuals who are responsive in embracing a wider healthcare approach, which includes mental, physical, and overall wellbeing. Other priority areas discussed were family health (81 per cent), physical health (77 per cent), and financial health (77 per cent). A majority of respondents (72 per cent) value having access to care, such as medical advice or treatment, as well as their home environment and living circumstances (72 per cent) as they work more from home, and work-life balance (73 per cent).
Furthermore, consumers are searching for more comprehensive health insurance plans that provide them with reassurance. These hold weight in influencing many prospective employees’ career decisions as a wider healthcare plan is transitioning from ‘good to have' to becoming a ‘must-have.’