Workplace Doctor: Abu Dhabi executive who has it all wants to give something back

The executive looking to volunteer his time to help the less fortunate in life will gain so much from the experience, says workplace doctor Alex Davda.

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I have a high-level executive position in a large multinational. I enjoy my work immensely, but I often have that feeling that something is missing from my life. I want to give back in some way, to volunteer some time either once a week or once a month to help the less fortunate than myself. What is the best way to go about this in the UAE, also bearing in mind that I am time-poor? YT, Abu Dhabi

Ramadan, when Muslims worldwide fast during daylight hours and abstain from other pleasures, is a month where many people contribute to charity work, and make donations for the less fortunate. This time of year has relevance for all of us, making us more aware of the need for patience, compassion and mercy, especially in this increasingly fast-paced world. For many of us, we spend so long looking inward at our own lives, that we don’t spend enough time thinking about how we can enrich the lives of others. Perspective is so important and we often only gain this through immersing ourselves in new experiences.

Giving has always brought out the best in people. Throughout life, people have sought different opportunities to give back to those less fortunate than us. People like you who have succeeded in their careers have many opportunities to give back, and ultimately contribute positively to the lives of others.

As a senior executive, I imagine you have seen people grow, you have seen your business change and probably have supported both through tough times. Think now about how you can transfer these skills to help others overcome their own challenges and setbacks.

There are a number of ways you could do this and it can be just once a week or once a month. You may want to focus on using your business skills to support young people in developing their careers. Or it may be that you want to help school students, university graduates or the young unemployed discover what they really enjoy and develop great careers like yours. Equally, organisations such as the Emirates Foundation do some fantastic work supporting youth in the UAE. You may wish to connect with them. It may be that you can transfer and translate the business knowledge you have gained over time to the young people in the country.

On the other hand, you may want to step completely away from your corporate persona and instead give back to people on a more personal level. There are a number of charities that support those less fortunate than ourselves right here in the UAE.

Welfare drives for construction workers are one opportunity that contributes to our own community. Equally, there are programmes to deliver care packages to labourers, you can plan activities taking people out for movie nights or organise sporting events.

There is local fundraising to support those overseas affected by war, poverty or natural disasters. Being here, there is a lot we can do to contribute to some of the challenges faced by our neighbouring countries.

Through this contribution you can enrich the lives of others, yet both sides will experience the psychological value of giving back. Happiness experts have highlighted that through giving to others, either in time or financially, it activates the region of our brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust – creating a “warm glow” effect. Scientists also believe that altruistic behaviour releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high”.

Giving also facilitates social connection and strengthens our ties to others. You will find yourself meeting those you would not have in the past, learning new things about people from different cultures, societies and with different life experiences. You will give back, but at the same time gain so much.

Doctors prescription:

Feeling like something is missing from your life is not an uncommon feeling, especially for those who have succeeded in one area, but often at the expense of contributing in another. Your success is a testament to your hard work and persistence over the years. Think about how much value you can add if you took just a few hours out of a week or a month for the benefit of those who have much less.

Alex Davda is business psychologist and client director at Ashridge Executive Education, Hult International Business School, and is based in the Middle East. Email him at for advice on any work issues.

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