2020 has been the most stressful year in history for the global workforce, including workers in the UAE and people want robots to help, according to a new study by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence, an HR research and advisory firm. The study of more than 12,000 employees, managers, HR leaders, and C-level executives across 11 countries including 929 respondents in the UAE, found that the Covid-19 pandemic has increased workplace stress, anxiety, and burnout for people all around the world, and now workers say they would prefer help from robots instead of other people to help.
Covid-19’s negative impact
People across the world are battling increased levels of anxiety and depression at work due to Covid-19.
- 81% of people have had more stress and anxiety at work this year than any other previous year.
- This increased stress and anxiety has negatively impacted the mental health of 86% of the UAE workforce, causing more stress, 41%, a lack of work-life balance, 39%, burnout, 29%, depression from no socialisation, 33%, and loneliness, 19%.
- The new pressures presented by the global pandemic have been layered on top of everyday workplace stressors, including pressure to meet performance standards, 39%, handling routine and tedious tasks, 33%, and juggling unmanageable workloads, 35%.
Mental health at work
The global pandemic has exacerbated workplace mental health issues and the impact is not confined to professional lives, people are feeling the effects at home as well.
- 91% of people in the UAE say mental health issues at work, such as stress, anxiety, and depression, affect their home life.
- The most common repercussions were sleep deprivation, 37%, poor physical health, 43%, reduced happiness at home, 42%, suffering family relationships, 35%, and isolation from friends, 34%.
- As boundaries have increasingly blurred between personal and professional worlds with people working remotely, 52% of people are working 40+ more hours each month and 29% of people have been burned out from overwork.
- Despite perceived drawbacks of remote work, 68% of UAE workers find remote work more appealing now than they did before the pandemic, saying they now have more time to spend with family, 60%, sleep, 34%, and get work done, 35%.
Technology over people
People want more from technology than collaboration tools and instead want technology to support their mental health
- Only 16% of people would prefer humans over robots to support their mental health as they believe robots provide a judgement-free zone, 35%, an unbiased outlet to share problems, 31%, and quick answers to health-related questions, 36%.
- 77% of people would prefer to talk to a robot over their manager about stress and anxiety at work and 86% of people are open to having a robot as a therapist or counsellor.
- 86% say AI has helped their mental health at work. The top benefits noted were providing the information needed to do their job more effectively, 39%, automating tasks and decreasing workload to prevent burnout, 35%, and reducing stress by helping to prioritise tasks, 37%.
- AI has also helped the majority, 60%, of workers shorten their work week and allowed them to take longer vacations, 61%. Around two-thirds of respondents say AI technology increases employee productivity, 69%, improves job satisfaction, 60%, and improves overall well-being, 61%.
Employees worldwide are looking for their organisations to provide more mental health support and if this help is not provided, it will have profound impact on productivity as well as the personal and professional lives of the UAE workforce.
- 87% of people believe their company should be doing more to protect the mental health of their workforce. Fifty-four% noted their companies have added mental health services or support as a result of Covid-19.
- 94% of the UAE workforce would like their company to provide technology to support their mental health, including self-service access to health resources, 42%, on-demand counselling services, 42%, proactive health monitoring tools, 42%, access to wellness or meditation apps, 41%, and chatbots to answer health-related questions, 32%.
- 94% of workers have faced challenges while working remotely, with the biggest factors being no distinction between personal and professional lives, 39%, and dealing with increased mental health challenges like stress and anxiety, 34%.
- 36% of people said workplace stress, anxiety, or depression causes their productivity to plummet and 45% said it leads to an increase in poor decision making. 91% said work related stress, anxiety, and depression affects their home life.
“With new remote work expectations and blurred lines between personal and professional lives, the toll of Covid-19 on our mental health is significant, and it’s something that workers across every industry and country are dealing with,” said Dan Schawbel, Managing Partner, Workplace Intelligence. “The pandemic has put mental health front and centre, it’s the biggest workforce issue of our time and will be for the next decade. The results of our study show just how widespread this issue has become, and why now is the time for organisations to start talking about it and exploring new solutions.”
“With the global pandemic, mental health has become not only a broader societal issue, but a top workplace challenge. It has profound impact on individual performance, team effectiveness and organisational productivity. Now more than ever, it’s a conversation that needs to be had and employees are looking to employers to step up and provide solutions,” said Emily He, Senior Vice President, Oracle Cloud HCM. “There is a lot that can be done to support the mental health of the global workforce and there are so many ways that technology like AI can help. But first, organisations need to add mental health to their agenda. If we can get these conversations started, both at an HR and an executive level, we can begin to make some change. And the time is now.”