Is it surprising that 2020 has been the most stressful year for employees in the UAE? 81% of participants in Oracle’s latest AI survey have experienced more stress then ever. That’s where the downward spiral starts. Employees also noticed increased anxiety, lack of work-life balance, burnout (29%) and loneliness (19%). It doesn’t stop here. They are also feeling pressured at work to meet performance standards (39%) and juggling unmanageable workloads (35 percent).

Employees want and need support

Your team members are looking for support. Surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly, employees rather speak with a robot than discuss their mental health with another human being. One listener of Dubai Eye’s Business Breakfast on 10 Oct 2020 commented that “an employee should never bring up their problems at work.” With the blurred lines working from home has created over the last months, how can we not talk about our issues and concerns?

It’s time we address stress and mental health

While numerous health insurers have been offering employee assistance programmes (EAP) for years, not every company has taken up this service. Independent EAPs can be set for less than 1 AED per employee per year. With expected returns between 3:1 for SMEs and 9:1 for large-size corporation, it’s time we act.

With employees preferring to use a non-judging robot over approaching their manager, HR or a colleague, we need to question our leaders’ abilities. Have we provided them with the appropriate skills to lead these conversations? How can we remove unconscious restrains and biases towards mental health issues? How can we create an open culture where employees feel at ease to approach their boss? Each organisation has to find its own solutions and in the meantime, they can support their team with these coping mechanisms.

Allow time to switch off

The constant on mentality seems to have reached new highs when working from home. Pressured to proof they are working, employees have working longer hours and more days. Working on weekends has become an expectations in an increasing number of industries. Stress multiplies and it’s a burnout waiting to happen.

Let your employees turn off their laptop and silence their phone messages after their regular working days and on non-working days. If contact is required, agree to specific times when messages should be checked.

Be realistic

This year seems to have divided the business community into those who managed to pivot and others negatively impacted. Some have tasked their employees to achieve impossible sales targets while even their regular 2020 targets would have been a challenge.

Employees who are simultaneously remote schooling their children are juggling performance expectations and family commitments. A year ago, none of us expected to double as a home teacher. Recognising the special circumstance, show your understanding and offer flexible working solutions.

Encourage movement

Exercise does not only provide benefits for the body. It reduces stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol while producing endorphins, resulting in a feeling of well-being.

Have a team event by moving together (think step challenges). This can be done in the form of a walking meeting or a walk after lunch, especially now that temperatures are getting cooler. If your team members are spread or into different activities, inspire them to pursue regular physical activities.

Practice mindfulness

Apps like Headspace, Calm or Insight Timer make guided meditation anytime anywhere possible. Similar to exercise, studies have discovered the calming effects of mindfulness. Helping your employee to regulate their emotions, it will also lead to reduced anxiety and worry, lower heart rate and blood pressure and increased feeling of being calm and connected.

In days like these, when not everyone can meet their colleagues, family and friends in person, help your employees to cope with the numerous, unexpected stressors. As a business leader or HR professional, you are not only supporting your team to cope, you are also helping your company get back on track and grow.

Contact us and find out how our upcoming course “Building High-Performing Teams through Emotional Intelligence” can enhance your leaders’ capabilities and strengthen the team bond to laser focus on achieving your business goals.