COVID-19 isn’t over. But it’s fair to say that companies across the UAE are learning to live with it. Many organisations have returned fully or partially to the offices, are onboarding recruits and kick-starting staff development programmes that were parked since early 2020.

Needless to say, 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, you need to make sure that as a business, you have a supportive culture and wellness-first policies in place if you want to attract top talent

To help you meet those goals, Michael Page surveyed 1332 applicants across the United Arab Emirates 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 should 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 six in ten candidates responded positively. “Hopeful” was the most popular choice, followed by “motivated”, 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. Only 13% of candidates say they experience a sense of isolation whilst working from home. 33% feel that their manager has shown empathy and understanding towards their mental health. 32% do not report a change in their work-life balance. However, 20% say they are really feeling a greater sense of pressure during these times. 

Candidates have also shared coping strategies that have worked best for them: exercise (55% of respondents), maintaining contact with friends and loved ones (53%) and healthy eating (50%). 

Building back better

With some employees feeling under pressure, what are companies doing to address mental health challenges? 55% of respondents said their present or last company communicated about mental health, and 56% reported that their employers set up actions or policies to address the issue. 

These results are not surprising considering the high levels of willingness on part of candidates to talk about mental health. 24% of candidates polled said they felt confident to talk about mental health with their managers. They were far more likely to raise the subject with family members (38% of respondents), friends (35%) and doctors or mental health professionals (38%). 23% said they felt confident to talk about mental health with their HR department, 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 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, as well as 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 (50%) and employee recognition programmes (37% of respondents). 

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 UAE

Mental health and well-being, UAE

View infographics for mental health and wellbeing in Middle East and Saudi Arabia.

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