April 15, 2024
2 mins read

BCCD panel shares insights on how employers can raise workforce vitality

Industry experts respond to study that shows 89% of UAE employees feel ‘always on’

An expert panel recently convened by the British Chamber of Commerce Dubai (BCCD) has emphasised the critical role of employers in improving workplace wellbeing, following a study by Cigna Healthcare that reported the UAE has one of the highest vitality scores in the world, with 32% reporting high vitality levels, surpassing the global average of 17%, however, there is still room for improvement with 89% of UAE employees feel ‘always on’. The group of health, wellness, and human resource professionals shared organisational solutions to the growing trend of work-related stress, responding to the research that revealed 77% of employees look to their employers for help in leading a healthier lifestyle.

Sharing the findings of the UAE Edition of the Cigna Healthcare Vitality Study, Leah Cotterill, Chief Distribution Officer of Cigna Healthcare, revealed that while 32% of respondents reported high vitality levels, 99% had experienced at least one symptom of burnout over the course of the past year. Cotterill also highlighted the shift in mindset since the pandemic, with 75% of respondents acknowledging that looking after their health and well-being is more important than before, and 65% saying they value personal time over a well-paid job, mentioning “Employers need a higher focus on mental health support. Our Vitality Study is call to action is for leaders to listen to employees’ changing priorities, and adapt to evolving work preferences for a healthier, more productive environment.”

Joining Cotterill in the panel discussion were UK-based Family Therapist, Joanne Jewell; Head of Human Resources at Jaguar Land Rover, Laura Lawson; and Founder of mentl, Scott Armstrong. Revealing the impact of workplace stress and burnout, Jewell explained the negative impact on physical as well as mental wellbeing, ultimately placing a burden on a business’ bottom line through employee health insurance. Highlighting the productivity costs of low workforce morale, Armstrong shared industry data from 2022 indicating that UAE businesses lost 500 million dollars an hour due to disengaged employees.

Turning to the potential solutions, the panel emphasised that open conversations and advocacy from the top of an organisation are key to improving workforce vitality. Lawson highlighted how leadership from the C-suite has helped to embed employee wellbeing as a strategic metric across Jaguar Land Rover. She explained, “The leadership recognises that employee wellbeing goes hand-in-hand with business performance, and you cannot be successful with a disengaged workforce.”

Revealing some of the policies and practices implemented in the workplace, Lawson continued, “The pandemic showed us that we could still achieve business goals when people were working in hybrid mode and this practice has continued. We also offer employees the option to work remotely from anywhere for 30 days a year. This shows that it doesn’t have to cost to provide opportunities that can promote employee wellbeing; it is about building trust across the workforce, which comes with a good performance review process.

Exploring external stress factors that are impacting workforce vitality, Cotterill shared that the current cost of living crisis is a leading cause for concern in the UAE, with 74% of employees reporting that inflation is making it too challenging to maintain their health. She highlighted the opportunity for employers to provide financial education to support employees manage their personal finances and help alleviate that anxiety.

Concluding the discussion, the panel stressed the importance of taking a long-term approach to workplace wellness. Jewell cautioned that employers need to demonstrate their wellbeing credentials to attract and retain talent among the incoming Generation Z employees, who have different work-life priorities to their predecessors. Armstrong pointed to the long-term return on investment, amounting to more than 300% across organisations investing in wellness programs, and Cotterill revealed how building data over time can help to direct resources to the right vitality initiatives within a particular business.

British Chamber of Commerce Dubai’s CEO Katy Holmes, who moderated the panel discussion, said, “We feel a great responsibility as a Chamber of Commerce to highlight the importance of wellbeing in the workplace. Expert studies like the Cigna Healthcare Vitality Report show undeniable evidence that it’s a critical business issue for all company sizes and at the individual level.”

The panel discussion was the latest in the Chamber’s Business Briefings series, which bring together industry experts to demystify emerging trends and provide practical advice to companies navigating the region’s business landscape.

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