UAE finance professionals are the most stressed globally, report says

More than eight in 10 chief financial officers in the country expect stress levels to spike in the next two years

Only a third of worldwide finance departments regularly discuss health and well-being with their staff. Photo: The National
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Finance professionals in the UAE are the most stressed in the world and could see their anxiety levels rise further in the next two years as they grapple with the new VAT regime and struggle to meet tight deadlines.

Eighty-three per cent of the chief financial officers polled in the recruitment specialist Robert Half UAE's study, expect a spike in the stress levels of finance employees by 2020.

“The triple trifecta of a new VAT regime, finance automation implementation and financial year-end has increased pressure on the finance function,” said Gareth El Mettouri, associate director at Robert Half UAE. The report released on Wednesday polled more than 100 senior finance executives from UAE firms and more than 1,800 respondents globally.

Switzerland came second in the ranking, with 81 per cent of its CFOs expecting a spike in stress levels in the coming years, followed by Germany in third with 79 per cent.

Graphic by Ramon Penas

To help reduce the stress, Mr El Mettouri urged businesses to revise their annual workforce plans and consider increasing headcount to alleviate pressure.

More than four in 10 of those polled said lack of staff exacerbated stress levels among their workforce, with the same number citing short deadlines and increased workloads as a root cause. The study also found only a third of finance departments worldwide regularly discuss health and well-being with employees.

“The workplace is evolving and there is greater expectation for employers to increase their focus on well-being, flexibility and autonomy," said Mr El Mettouri. "For organisations this can be a timely reminder that tired, stressed and unhappy employees make for an unproductive and less efficient workplace.”


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Only 11 per cent of UAE-based chief financial officers said there would be no change to stress levels within finance departments over the next two years - the lowest percentage globally.

The study follows a December report from Robert Half UAE that found workplace burnout is an issue for nearly two-thirds of businesses in the country, with medium-sized entities the most affected. 
Meanwhile, in a 2017 survey conducted by YouGov and Bayt - that asked UAE residents about major causes of stress - 66 per cent of the respondents said increased living costs contributed the most to their anxiety levels. More than half blamed "work-related issues" as the top factor, while 38 per cent said the struggle to maintain a good work-life balance was a contributing cause.

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