Workplace stress on the rise globally, new report finds

Personal finance, workload and personal health found to be the top stress triggers

A new study has found women in the UAE are more stressed at work than their male colleagues
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Workplace stress is on the rise with women experiencing higher levels of anxiety than their male colleagues, a new survey has found.

Office stress in the UAE has increased from 35 per cent to 45 per cent since 2018, the Cigna health insurance survey found.

Research showed that internationally, 88 per cent of working women said they found their job stressful compared with 85 per cent of men.

Thirteen per cent of women also said they considered their stress levels to be “unmanageable” while 11 per cent of men said the same.

Internationally, the study found the top stress triggers for people were personal finance (17 per cent), workload (16 per cent) and personal health concerns (14 per cent).

“[Women] scored low on physical well-being, citing lack of sleep and exercise, and displayed higher stress levels compared to working men,” the survey said.

“Single women consider personal finances their focal stress point, while working mothers are anxious about workload.

“The lack of customised wellness programmes in the workplace is a major concern, with women in particular requesting more tailored and customised programmes.”

The well-being survey of 507 UAE workers in partnership with Dubai Health Authority focused on five pillars of happiness.

Those were physical health, financial, social, financial and work.

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The study – called the 2019 Cigna 360 well-being survey – assessed the physical and mental health of more than 13,000 people worldwide.

It found stress levels continue to adversely affect how employees feel about their workplace and directly contributes to a decline in physical health.

Overall, 87 per cent of workers polled said they felt stressed at work. Meanwhile 46 per cent said they received support from their employers but only 28 per cent said it was adequate.

Some 38 per cent of all respondents said no stress management support system was in place at all.

As part of the survey, about 500 people from the Emirates were questioned.

Among those under stress, 6 per cent said they consulted a medical professional regarding the issue, the report noted.

However, more than half of those who sought professional help said they found it helpful.

Meanwhile, 35 per cent of female respondents in the UAE said they had access to a formal work wellness programme, whereas 46 per cent of men said their needs were considered.

“Companies in the UAE must study key gaps in employer support and concentrate on these in order to lower stress levels,” said Jerome Droesch, CEO of Cigna MENA.

“Flexible work arrangements, special paid leave, time off for personal interests and job security are just some of the benefits respondents feel employers should provide.”

Globally, the study found women felt the idea of being judged for prioritising family or spending time away from work was a significant cause of stress.

About 52 per cent of senior women executives who were mothers said they fearing being scrutinised in this way the most.

Gail Stanley, head of organisational effectiveness at Noor Bank in the UAE, said there was now a cultural shift in attitudes to working women.

“The financial services industry is traditionally dominated by men but now we are paying more attention to diversity,” she said.

“Customer base is diverse so that needs to be reflected in company policy.

“A culture change is happening here [in the UAE], so women should have the confidence they are measured on output.

“They should be confident they will be part of a fair selection process if they are unable to entertain clients for five nights a month, for example.

“They should know this will not impact their career progression. The more senior women they see progressing gives others confidence it can be done.”