"Major gulf" between how UAE employers view health and wellness support and the perceptions of employees

Study commissioned to analyse the changing needs of global employers and employees.

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In terms of the most significant risks to productivity and time off, employers think the biggest health challenge is flu and other common viral diseases, closely followed by stress, serious illness, back pain and mental health issues.
Photograph EPA
In terms of the most significant risks to productivity and time off, employers think the biggest health challenge is flu and other common viral diseases, closely followed by stress, serious illness, back pain and mental health issues.

A major gulf between how UAE employers view the health and wellness support they offer and the perceptions of employees could have a significant impact on productivity, according to new research from health benefits provider Aetna International.

The findings are revealed in the first of two new Business of Health 2020 reports - Tackling polarised perceptions of corporate health and wellness - which investigates the opinions and experiences of 5,000 HR Directors and employees in the UAE, USA, UK and Singapore.

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The report was commissioned to analyse the changing needs of global employers and employees, focusing on individual mental and physical health priorities, and the impact this has on businesses.

Despite the vast majority of UAE businesses (92%) agreeing they want employees to prioritise physical and mental health over work, most employees don’t believe the support they are offered is good enough.

While over three-quarters (76%) of employers believe they provide good access to programmes that support health and wellness, only about a quarter (27%) of employees think the same – 26% actually rated the support provided by their employer as poor.

In terms of the most significant risks to productivity and time off, employers think the biggest health challenge is flu and other common viral diseases, closely followed by stress, serious illness, back pain and mental health issues.

Even with stress ranking so highly, 51% of UAE workers view support for stress as poor, compared with 13% of employers.

These figures are particularly alarming when compared to the global average which found that 38% of employees view support for stress as poor compared to 11% of employers.

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Given that 88% of UAE employees went on to indicate that stress could one day impact their ability to work, a perceived lack of support in this area could seriously hamper business effort at both recruitment and retention, as well as an organisation’s future business performance.

Catherine Darroue, senior director of customer proposition, EMEA, at Aetna International, said: “A clear gap is emerging in the UAE when it comes to the level of mental and physical health support businesses are providing and the impact this is having on employees.

“While employers recognise that offering wellness and health support is becoming as vital as policies around holiday time, sick leave and retirement plans, companies need to do more to better understand and meet the needs of workforces.”

Significantly, two thirds (67%) of workers stated that they wouldn’t join a company if it didn’t have clear policy on supporting those with mental health issues including stress, anxiety or depression, reflecting the priorities of today’s jobseekers.

Darroue added: “Employers must ask themselves how they can help their workforce achieve a good quality of life, empowering them to manage any issues that arise over and above offering financial rewards.

“It’s these social and professional determinants of health that influence employee happiness and well-being, and therefore performance and loyalty.

“By inspiring individuals to change their habits and giving them the tools to be successful in achieving their goals, organisations will improve their performance and ensure they’re equipped to keep pace with tomorrow’s needs, demands and technology.”

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