COVID-19 isn’t over. But it’s fair to say that companies across Saudi Arabia are learning to live with it. Many organisations have returned fully or partially to the offices, are already onboarding new recruits and have kick-started staff development programmes that were parked in the early days of the pandemic.

Needless to say, some professionals have struggled over the past year as the lockdown, isolation from working remotely, job insecurities and health scares took its toll. And since there’s no vaccine against mental health challenges, as a business if you want to attract top talent, you need to make sure that you have a supportive culture and wellness-first policies in place. 

To help you meet those goals, Michael Page surveyed 540 applicants in Saudi Arabia from mid-May to mid-July 2021 to find out how they have coped since the outbreak of the pandemic and how they think employers can support staff going forward. 

How candidates coped with the pandemic

It’s not all doom and gloom — when asked to sum up their mood in a single word, almost eight in ten candidates responded positively. “Motivated” was the most popular choice, followed by “hopeful”, suggesting that many professionals are putting the tough times behind them. 

Significant reasons behind the optimism could be the partial or complete return to the office as early as May 2020. When asked if our respondents felt lonely working from home, 45% said they do not experience a sense of isolation, 29% said they felt lonely working remotely, whereas 25% candidates said they don’t work from home or remotely. 
 
70% said they feel their manager shows empathy and understanding towards their mental health. When it comes to the level of work-life balance, 67% of candidates responded they did not see a change. However, 37% report feeling a higher sense of pressure in the current times and 33% feeling discouraged about not getting the right credit for their work. 

Candidates have also shared coping strategies that have worked best for them: exercise (54% of respondents), eating healthy (46%) and maintaining contact with friends and loved ones (45%).

Building back better

With some employees feeling under pressure, what are companies doing to address mental health challenges? Surprisingly, more than half of our respondents (58%) said their current or former company did not communicate about mental health and 56% said their company (current or former) has not set up actions, policies, or events to take care of employees’ mental health.   

These results are not surprising considering the level of willingness on part of candidates to talk about mental health. They were far more likely to raise the subject with family members (68% of respondents), friends (62%) and doctors or mental health professionals (73%). This compares to 43% of candidates polled who said they felt confident to talk about mental health with their managers, 39% with their HR department and 37% with their colleagues, suggesting that there’s still some stigma attached to this in the workplace.

Finally, job seekers have some advice for employers on building an organisational culture that prioritises mental health. Majority of our respondents (49%) believe that companies should lean in more strongly on flexible work patterns and consider policies like banning emails and meetings during non-official working hours and 46% would like to see their company launching “well-being” initiatives running the gamut from meditation workshops to mindful eating courses. Other popular ideas include better communication with managers to control time and task planning (44%) and 36% saying their management and leadership should be trained to better equip them handle employee issues surrounding mental health. 

Michael Page understands the importance of finding the right match between employer and employee based not just on a competence, experience, and skills, but also in ensuring the cultural fit and working dynamic works for both parties. If you would like to talk to one of our expert consultants about how we can help you find the right talent for your organisation, or to talk about the results of our latest survey, get in touch today.

Mental health and wellbeing in Saudi Arabia

Mental health and well-being, Saudi Arabia

View infographics for mental health and wellbeing in Middle East and UAE.

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