Nearly two-thirds of workforce in UAE admit they're 'quiet quitting'

Gallup survey finds workplace stress improving but slacking trend echos wider global phenomenon

A global survey found more than a quarter of UAE employers are engaged and thriving in the workplace. Photo: Morsa Images
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Workplaces in the UAE remain the most highly engaged in the Middle East and North Africa but mirror global trends when it comes to “quiet quitting”, a survey has found.

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2023 survey, released this week, found 27 per cent of employees in the UAE were engaged and thriving.

This is a two-point increase over last year's report, and compares with only 15 per cent regionally and 23 per cent globally, the study showed.

It also showed daily stress in UAE workplaces to be among the lowest in the region, with 33 per cent of employees stating they experience it.

Every organisation is starting to have strategies to combat work-related stress. This is what we see on the ground
Abdullah Bader, executive principal, Gallup polling

This is a decline of two points on last year and compares with 45 per cent regionally and 44 per cent globally. Turkey topped the regional list for stress at 68 per cent.

However, the UAE mirrored global trends when it comes to what’s known as “quiet quitting”, or essentially doing the bare minimum.

At least 61 per cent were quiet quitting – not engaged – and 12 per cent were loud quitting, or actively disengaged, figures released separately to The National showed.

Globally the survey found at least 59 per cent of workers were quiet quitting and 18 per cent loud quitting. Regionally the numbers stood at 62 per cent and 23 per cent, respectively.

At least 21 per cent of UAE employees report experiencing daily anger, a decline of two points. This is less than half of the regional average of 45 per cent and matches the global figure of 21 per cent.

Gallup has estimated low engagement at work costs the global economy $8.8 trillion and accounts for 9 per cent of global gross domestic product but said quiet quitters could be easily motivated again through better management.

Workplace plans in place

Experts said the UAE is bucking the regional trend because of government well-being initiatives such as the National Strategy for Well-being 2031, and an increasing focus placed by companies on the mental health of their employees.

It also comes after authorities have undertaken several reforms in recent years to attract more skilled workers and bolster its business environment. The country’s golden visa programme has also encourages talented workers to move and put down roots here.

“The UAE is going above and beyond in engagement,” Abdullah Bader, executive principal at Gallup, told The National.

“We have seen initiatives for addressing work-related stress and monitoring work life balance. And national well-being strategies. A third reason is open communication channels between companies and employees.

“Every organisation in the UAE is starting to have strategies to combat work-related stress. This is what we see on the ground.”

Mr Bader said focusing on quiet quitters made sense for employers, as most workers could be easily motivated again.

“This is low-hanging fruit for organisations in UAE,” said Mr Bader. “Making small changes can really engage employees.”

Positive outlook

The study also showed workers in the UAE had a more favourable view of the country’s job market. At least 59 per cent say that now is a good time to find a job, a healthy increase of six points on 2022 and only beaten by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

“UAE companies are making steady progress on workplace engagement and reducing negative emotions among their employees,” Tanvi Ahluwalia, market leader for Gallup in the UAE, said in a press release.

“In light of the UAE’s projected economic growth and increasingly favourable job market conditions, leaders must continue investing in the development of their people in order to retain their top talent.”

The picture was more clouded regionally. Gallup surveyed Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestinian Territories, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE and Yemen – and found workers reported the second-lowest regional percentage of engaged employees; the second-highest regional percentage of daily anger; and the lowest regional percentage of employees who say now is a good time to find a job.

The report found that 23 per cent of the world’s employees were engaged at work in 2022, the highest level since Gallup began measuring global engagement in 2009. Although engagement declined in 2020, it has returned to its historically positive trend.

Much of this gain was due to a 7-percentage-point rebound in engagement in South Asia, which includes India – estimated to become the world’s largest country by population this year. South Asia now leads the world in employee engagement at 33 per cent.

Gallup typically surveys 1,000 people in each country or area using a standard set of core questions translated into the respective country’s major languages. In some countries, Gallup collects oversamples in major cities or areas of special interest.

Updated: June 14, 2023, 6:26 AM