Investing in the health and well-being of their workforce leads to increased productivity and decreased employee turnover for employers. However, two-thirds of Middle East employees have reported experiencing symptoms related to poor mental health and well-being or have received a diagnosis for a mental health condition. Additionally, one in three employees has reported symptoms of burnout. Many have also faced challenges related to physical health.
In the early fall of 2022, the McKinsey Health Institute conducted a survey involving over four thousand employees across four Middle Eastern countries that are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). These countries include Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. The survey aimed to gain insights into the state of employee health in the region.
Here are top five insights from their findings:
1. 60%+ faced mental and physical health issues
Sixty-six per cent of respondents from the GCC region have encountered at least one mental health challenge in their lifetime, which is slightly higher compared to global research findings. Similarly, in terms of physical health, over two-thirds have reported experiencing at least one symptom of poor physical health.
2. High anxiety, depression, and distress among employees
Employees also showed a higher prevalence of burnout symptoms and distress compared to the global average. Nearly one in three report burnout symptoms, and 55 per cent indicate distress. Additionally, more than twice as many GCC respondents express an intention to leave their jobs (36 per cent) compared to the global rate (16 per cent).
3. Workplace toxicity fuels burnout and employee attrition
Recent data suggests that toxic workplace culture is the primary predictor of employees resigning during the Great Resignation, surpassing compensation alone by a factor of ten in predictive significance.
4. Workability impacted by poor physical health
Roughly 42% of respondents report physical pain affecting their work-related activities. Half say work limits their time for physical health, and some attribute it to factors like poor sleep and diet. The sedentary lifestyle in the region, due to rapid socioeconomic development, has led to higher rates of obesity and diabetes, making chronic diseases the top health concerns.
5. Locals report higher issues than expats
Around 40% of locally born workers plan to leave their current organisation within six months. Additionally, expatriate workers report better physical health (27% experiencing physical pain) compared to locally born workers (47%), possibly because of their younger age or host country health screening requirements.
How to improve employee condition in the Middle East?
Employers have the opportunity to enhance employee health and well-being in the GCC region through a range of actions, both proactive and responsive, at the organisational, team, and individual levels.
- Make sure that health and well-being are prioritised at all levels, define their goals, and formulate action strategies to stimulate innovation and make a meaningful difference. This might include adopting guidelines for mental health in the workplace as recommended by the WHO.
- Launch campaigns to foster well-being and open dialogues that combat stigma. Create a thriving environment for all.
- Follow regulatory guidelines for workplace psychological health and safety.