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Mental Health Day: Work-Life Balance is Good for Business

Half of MENA's Professionals Considered Quitting Over Poor Working Conditions

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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Studies show employee mental wellness is directly related to creativity and innovation at work. Comprehensive mental health and employee wellness benefits increase productivity, and performance, and reduce the costs associated with losing talent and potential.

A 2022 survey by Bayt.com, a leading job-searching site in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, indicated that 52% of employees in the region have considered leaving their current jobs in search of a better work-life balance at least once during the 12 months ahead of the survey.

The report indicated that around 23% of respondents have neglected their personal and family obligations due to work, 47% of employees work between 40 and 60 hours per week, while 86% often have to work overtime or put in extra hours from home. Furthermore, 19% say that it is difficult to take time off (paid or unpaid leave) in their current job.

The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of addressing and protecting mental health in and out of the workplace. The negative stigma that previously surrounded discussions of mental health at work is thankfully becoming outdated. Employers are increasingly making tangible changes in favor of the current trend of bringing one’s whole self to work. 

Employers that offer mental health benefits are now twice as likely to report a greater than 50% return to work rate after mental health-related disability leave. This is no small savings, as mental health-related leave is believed to comprise approximately 70% of workplace disability costs.

“Leadership commitment is foundational, with top executives openly endorsing and prioritizing mental health initiatives, setting a positive example throughout the organization,” Salma El-Shurafa, leadership facilitator and executive coach told Inc. Arabia.

Mental Wellness is Good for Business

In a tight labor market, employers that focus on mental wellness initiatives will likely attract and retain top talent. McKinsey found that 60% of Gen Z respondents consider mental health resources to be important when selecting an employer.

Roughly the same number said they consider mental health initiatives when deciding whether or not to remain with an employer. And 91% of respondents to a 2021 Harvard Business Review survey said they believed that workplace culture should support mental health.

Work-Life Balance

Equally important is education and awareness, with mental health training offered to all staff levels to diminish stigma and equip employees with the knowledge to support colleagues facing mental health challenges. “It is really important to train employers and employees to be mental FirstAid responders. Look for signs of change of behavior. If someone is usually outgoing and has suddenly become withdrawn or sad, it might be a mental health sign, and it is important to deal with it promptly, so it doesn’t turn into mental distress,” Youmna Khalil, founder and CEO of FirstAid Responders, told Inc. Arabia.

Well-defined mental health policies and accessible resources, such as Employee Assistance Programs, are pivotal in providing guidance, assistance, and counseling for personal or work-related mental health concerns. Moreover, companies should ensure that their health insurance covers mental health services adequately and actively communicate these benefits to employees.

Open and non-judgmental communication channels must be fostered to create an environment where employees feel safe discussing their mental health concerns with supervisors, HR, or peers. Appointing or training mental health champions helps raise awareness and provides peer support, while regular one-on-one check-ins between managers and team members, addressing both work and well-being, build trust and openness.

“Employers should discourage excessive overtime and advocate for a healthy work-life balance, promoting the use of vacation days. Implementing stress reduction programs, mindfulness sessions, or wellness initiatives within the workplace further reinforces a holistic approach to mental well-being, ensuring employees feel valued, supported, and empowered to prioritize their mental health alongside their professional responsibilities,” added El-Shurafa.

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