Managing rising stress levels in the UAE

By Gareth El Mettouri on 14th March 2018

Gareth El Mettouri, Associate Director at Robert Half UAE, explores rising stress levels in UAE businesses and how it can be managed.

Financial workers in the UAE are some of the hardest working in the world. They’re also the most stressed. In a global survey of CFOs, 83% of those in the UAE told Robert Half that they predicted stress levels in their team would rise by 2020.
Although we expect hard work from our employees, when you compare these figures to the rest of the world, they paint an alarming picture. In the article published by The National, UAE finance workers are 6.41% more stressed than those in the UK and 23.88% more stressed than finance workers in the Netherlands.
What sets the UAE apart from the rest of the world when it comes to workplace stress management? CFOs have stated that lack of staff (42%), increased workloads and responsibilities (42%), and short deadlines (42%) are the three biggest causes of stress within finance teams. When you consider the current financial climate in the UAE—the recent launch of the new VAT regime, the influx of new SMEs and economic growth set at 3.9%—it’s easy to imagine already hardworking teams being pushed beyond the limit.
Almost half (48%) of UAE businesses say that implementing new technologies will be the main priority for the year, with a focus on automating predictive reporting, financial modelling and compliance. However, this simply cannot be achieved when teams feel unsupported and under pressure.
Research into happiness at work has shown that productivity, engagement and job satisfaction all decline as stress levels rise, putting targets further out of reach while staff turnover slowly increases. Of those surveyed, 38% of CFOs said that they’d seen an increase in employee turnover in the last 12 months. Finding ways to manage rising stress levels will become key to future success.

Lack of talent

Lack of skilled staff remains the top cause of workplace stress in UAE finance functions. A recent survey has shown that, in the UAE alone, 46% of roles are left unfilled for a month or longer due to a lack of properly qualified talent. This deficit has its consequences, as 13% of CFOs report low team morale due to the staff shortage.
The solution is to revise the workforce plan for the year and add additional team members to fill any predicted or immediate skill deficits. Tax accountants, financial modellers and finance business partners are the three roles we’re predicting demand for.

Accept feedback as a way to evolve company culture

Company culture is cultivated over a period of time and, in order to remain effective, must be continually maintained if it’s going to yield benefits to both the company and its employees.
In periods of extreme stress, maintaining an open dialogue or issuing feedback forms can reveal which aspects of your process may need amending and which areas of the team may benefit from additional support or resource.  

Related: Why employer branding matters

Facilitate flexible or remote working

Last year, PwC found that 76% of CEOs were using technology to improve employee well-being by offering flexible working and innovative office environments.
Flexible working is a simple way to help restore the employee work-life balance and remains a remuneration package staple from a candidate perspective. This can be implemented simply via software and a few minor changes to your HR process.

At Robert Half we specialise in placing highly skilled professionals within a wide range of companies across the UAE. Contact our experienced recruitment consultants today to help you find professionals that are best for your business.

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