Stress, workload, and burnout have ‘significantly increased’ in the past 12 months: GCC employees

Mercer Talent Enterprise survey highlights the complexities of employee wellbeing in an era of the ‘new normal’, where a sense of euphoria accompanies persistent exhaustion and on-going stress

Approximately 68 percent of employees surveyed have reported increased levels of stress at work, while 48 percent have stated that their workload has ‘significantly increased’ over the past 12 months, according to a new research released by Mercer Talent Enterprise.

One-third of the region’s employees are feeling increased stress, fatigue, and burnout, while simultaneously reporting an overall improvement in wellbeing since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although seemingly contradictory, the survey highlights the complexities of employee wellbeing in this era of the ‘new normal’ where a sense of euphoria, as well as persistent exhaustion and on-going stress go hand-in-hand.

“We are living through a unique time as employees across the world are feeling the compounding effects of Covid-19 on their professional lives,” said Radhika Punshi, leading occupational psychologist, co-founder of Mercer Talent Enterprise, and co-author of the whitepaper.

“Our research demonstrated great optimism within the GCC’s workforce, however we must also address the concerning data trends around fatigue, stress, and burnout.”

Key findings on employee wellbeing

Mercer Talent Enterprise provides organizations with the data insights and consultation they need to implement an effective integrated wellbeing strategy.

This includes shifting the leadership mindset to shape an employee-centered wellbeing culture and building skills for managers to have meaningful conversations with employees around mental health.

Punshi added: “We are in an interesting inflection point in the realm of employee wellbeing where progress is being hindered by increasing workload and an ‘always-on’ digital culture.

“We hope to increase awareness of the complexities and intricacies of employee wellbeing, with a view to helping organizations implement strategies that make a difference.”

Findings from Mercer Talent Enterprise’s most recent research includes:

  • The overall level of employee wellbeing has increased significantly by over 32 percent from the start of the pandemic in 2020, and an overwhelming 82 percent of people are much more positive and hopeful about the future.
  • 78 percent of employees believe that their digital habits and overall digital health deteriorated since the onset of the pandemic, leading to an increased sense of digital fatigue and an inability to ‘switch off’.
  • This includes time spent on virtual calls and emails at work as well as social media, gaming and OTT platforms outside work.
  • 8 of 10 employees in the GCC do not feel comfortable talking about their mental health at work, compared to 5 of 10 employees in Europe and North America.
  • Over 46 percent of leaders are currently feeling overwhelmed and re-evaluating their own priorities as part of the #greatreset.
  • 4 in 5 managers do not feel fully equipped to have meaningful conversations with their teams on wellbeing, especially on mental health.

The findings are revealed within a dedicated whitepaper co-written by the founders of Mercer Talent Enterprise, David Jones and Radhika Punshi, titled ‘Understanding the Science of Wellbeing: Beyond the Hype’, which calls for improved methods of managing employee wellbeing in a post-pandemic world.

Impact of an ‘always on approach’ on employee resignations

The latest data insights by Mercer Talent Enterprise demonstrates optimism and a positive trend, while also highlighting a distinct gap that exists between the workplace of today and one that nurtures employee’s mental health in its greatest capacity, as one of the most critical skills for the future of work.

Workplaces in the Middle East have changed significantly since the onset of the pandemic, with many operating remotely or adopting a hybrid model of in-office and work-from-home practices.

While this has offered employees flexibility, it has also led to an ‘always-on’ approach where people feel unable to detach from their work, regardless of location.

‘The Great Resignation’ – a global trend of employees resigning to pursue a different career or career path – is one crucial outcome that has emerged and has been compounded by general stress and trauma related to Covid-19.

The UAE is a shining example of a country that has placed high importance on employee wellbeing with several initiatives and laws introduced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to address the matter and set a global benchmark.

The progressive four-and-a-half-day work week (and four-days in Sharjah) has garnered global attention and placed the UAE high on the list of most favourable locations to work.

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