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Workplace Stress

It started with a stated mission to become ‘the happiest nation on earth’, now new research suggests UAE residents are starting to believe that it can be – and, indeed, that they can be.

But, as the findings of the annual Cigna 360 Wellbeing Survey 2022 reveal, happiness comes with a price, and it is a cost that its private sector will have to pay. That said, there are those that would argue, me included, that is a debt accrued over many years and payment is way past due.

Focussing on the main findings of the yearly snapshot, it’s been a banner year on many counts for the Emirates with a host of impressive, and deserved, metrics ticking up in the 2022 release.

Top Level findings:

o  The UAE ranked #1 destination across Middle East, Africa and Asia to relocate for expats, reveals Cigna 360° Wellbeing Survey

o  Better overall well-being and quality of life, secure job market and finances make UAE an attractive destination for expats

o  The UAE’s wellbeing index grew by 2.1 since 2021, the highest amongst all countries – a reflection of the country’s economic growth, proactive visa norms, and improved job opportunities

o  The UAE scored 68.2 on the wellbeing index, considerably above the global average of 62.9, followed by the USA, UK, China, Spain, and Australia

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Now in its eighth edition, the annual global survey by Cigna also revealed expatriates who move to the UAE record a longer period of stay in the country, when compared with expats moving to any other country in the world.

The average expat length of stay in the UAE (4.4 years) is significantly higher against the global average (3.2 years) – a reflection of the better quality of life, finances, and a more stable job market in the country. Post the pandemic, UAE residents are also more conscious of their health and well-being with improved scores across all health indices.

The country’s overall well-being grew by 2.1, the highest amongst all countries across the world. This has been due, say Cigna, to progressive policy changes, new visa regulations, and increased resident confidence on the country’s economic growth over the past two years

Indeed, it’s clear that the nation, which enshrined ‘work/life balance’ in January 2022 when it adopted a 4.5-working day week, is enjoying the fruits of its innovation. Combine that with its handling of the pandemic, which attracted High Net Worth Individuals and investors from around the world, and you have the foundations for widespread prosperity.

This is borne out by the survey which saw some world-leading metrics in the various factors making up ‘wellbeing’.

Wellbeing stats:

o Physical wellbeing: UAE – 65.3, Global – 59.9

o Social wellbeing: UAE – 67.1, Global – 62.9

o Family wellbeing: UAE – 73.1, Global – 67.1,

o Financial wellbeing: UAE – 59.8, Global – 56

o Work wellbeing: UAE – 71.7, Global – 69.5.

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But with that mobility, and perhaps bolstered by the Government’s endorsement of work/life balance, the survey captures another stark reality, one which shows that in an economy of opportunity, one that enables mobility of employment, its population is making radically different choices.

And, this is where the private sector must sit up and take notice.

Loud quitting

Employees are not just ‘quiet quitting’ they are actually quitting, as evidenced by the research.

Last year 50 percent of respondents in the UAE said they intended to quit, this year it found that 40 percent did, which actually means that four out of five who said they would walk did so. This year that’s even higher, with 55 percent saying they are thinking about quitting, far higher than the global average of 36 percent.

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And perhaps, who can blame them, as last year the survey put the UAE workforce as ‘the most stressed in the world’. This year, that hasn’t improved.

Indeed, 98 percent of workers in the UAE say they have experienced at least one symptom of burnout (remembering the public sector works a 4.5 day week). Working longer has led to an ‘always on’ culture, which this year sees the UAE far outstrip other key markets when it comes to ‘total stress’ and more worryingly ‘unmanageable stress’.

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New priorities

All this in a land of opportunity has led to a dramatic shift in sentiment amongst employees. Not only are they voting with their feet, but they are embracing new priorities, leaning into the ‘Great Reassessment’. UAE survey respondents led the way in ‘Re-evaluating lifestyle, priorities and other changes’ and they are also the most ‘Happy to take a less paid job, for more time to do other things’, while also now among the most willing to consider retiring early to enjoy life, even if it means having less money.

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As the results were released, Jerome Droesch, CEO of Domestic Health and Health Services, Cigna International Markets, said: “Cigna has continually invested in keeping a pulse on the health and well-being of people in the UAE. As with our surveys over the years, our eighth annual 360° Global Well-Being Survey has revealed interesting insights into people’s well-being – with UAE ranking among the best in the world.”

The survey has also brought out critical pointers in the race for talent, as more employees evaluate their career goals. Droesch said, “Employee health and well-being has become paramount, and employers need to step up to create an environment where employees feel more cared for, supported and can grow in their personal and professional capacities.

“The Cigna survey sheds light on opportunities organisations can capitalise on to build awareness, drive change in this direction and improve their positions as attractive places to work for.”

As Charles Dickens once wrote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

The evidence points to an age of wisdom, both in terms of government policy and the population’s own sense of worth and its priorities, it remains to be seen if the private sector leans into the ‘opportunities’ Jerome Droesch rightly points out are there, or if they are consumed by their own foolishness.