- UAE employee wellbeing metrics have risen significantly since 2019
- Only half of UAE employees are satisfied with their company's leadership
- Better management practices can curtail burnout and increase engagement
UAE's employee wellbeing has room to grow.
Since its union in 1971, the United Arab Emirates has developed into one of the leading nations of the Co-operation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) region. Recent investments in sustainable resources, startup funding, and the encouragement of trade and investment relationships have been a boon to the country's economy. Despite global challenges over the past three years, the UAE was able to raise its GDP to $640 billion at the end of 2021.1
But it's not just about money. A major focus of the UAE in recent years has been wellbeing and happiness. In 2016, the UAE launched the National Programme for Happiness and Wellbeing which covers happiness and wellbeing in the workplace within the private sphere. This effort focuses on the leader's role in promoting wellbeing in the workplace, including actionable items for leaders to follow.
And recent Gallup data suggest that the program has been effective. Results from the Key Workplace Trends in the UAE survey2 show that a growing number of employees feel that their company cares about their overall wellbeing. In 2022, nearly half of UAE employees (49%) strongly agree that their company cares about their overall wellbeing -- an 18-percentage-point increase compared with 2019.
Another sign of wellbeing awareness in the workplace is the comfort employees feel when it comes to talking about mental health. Gallup asked employees in the UAE if they would feel free to discuss mental health issues with their manager, and 56% answered "yes."
In 2022, nearly half of UAE employees (49%) strongly agree that their company cares about their overall wellbeing -- an 18-percentage-point increase compared with 2019.
The results of the survey are an admirable success story for the 50-year-old country: The UAE has the second-highest employee wellbeing in the GCC region -- 52% of employees are thriving in their overall lives, according to this year's State of the Global Workplace report.
Manager-related burnout remains a problem.
Nevertheless, UAE business leaders still have work to do when it comes to addressing worker wellbeing, specifically burnout. Nearly two in five employees (38%) report feeling burned out due to work-related stress in the last 30 days. And about half of UAE employees don't strongly agree that their manager gives them the information or support they need, nor that they have the necessary time to complete tasks or spend enough quality time with their families and friends.
A lack of manager support, unclear communication and unreasonable time pressure are all top causes of employee burnout, according to Gallup research. Consequently, Gallup data suggest that in most cases of burnout, a good manager was missing.
A good manager is an advocate for their team members -- they help manage priorities, clarify expectations and offer support. When managers provide this support, their employees are engaged at work and more likely to thrive in their overall lives.
But the reality is that there is a gap between what UAE managers think of the job that they are doing and what their employees think. The vast majority of managers (93%) consider themselves to be a good manager. However, the data show a clear discrepancy between self-image and reality -- throughout all of our wellbeing and stress-related questions, half of all employees report being not fully satisfied with their manager. For example, 47% of respondents don't strongly agree that they receive the support they need from their immediate supervisor, meaning managers could do a better job than they think they are doing.
Are your managers equipped to support their employees?
The good news is that science-based management practices can be learned. In Gallup's own Boss to Coach courses, participants were able to improve their team's engagement up to 22%, showed a 20% to 28% higher likelihood of performance improvements relative to their peers, and experienced 21% to 28% less turnover.3
Gallup research has demonstrated that the benefits of employee engagement are amplified by employee wellbeing and that employee engagement is a powerful influencer of future wellbeing. Research has also shown that highly engaged employees are far more likely to feel comfortable talking about wellbeing with their managers. This correlation is also apparent in UAE's engagement data.
Whereas almost half of not engaged (44%) and actively disengaged (47%) employees recently felt stressed and burned out at work, this figure shrinks to only a quarter (25%) of engaged employees.
Similarly, 42% of actively disengaged employees stated that stress at work has caused them to behave poorly with friends or family, whereas only 21% of engaged employees said stress at work has had a negative influence on their interactions with friends or family.
While the percentage of engaged employees has significantly increased in the UAE -- from 19% in 2019 to 30% today -- the vast majority are still either not engaged (62%) or actively disengaged (8%). This means that seven in 10 UAE employees are at a higher risk of stress and burnout.
The UAE has much to be proud of when it comes to employee wellbeing and engagement. But if UAE organizations wish to take their employee wellbeing to the next level, they must address burnout through improved manager training and manager coaching.