6 Steps to Maintaining a Good Work-Life Balance in the MENA Region

6 Steps to Maintaining a Good Work-Life Balance in the MENA Region

  • Work-life balance has evolved from being a luxury in the past century to being a necessity these days.
  • While maintaining a healthy work-life balance is a priority for MENA professionals, they seem to be struggling to achieve this aim.
  • While a large part of the responsibility lies with employers, employees should also take proactive steps to maintain a good work-life balance.
  • These include planning one’s week, embracing technology, learning to say NO, being aware of company policies and maintaining good relationships at work, and staying healthy and fit.

Worldwide, work-life balance has evolved from being a luxury in the past century to being a necessity these days, and the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region is no exception to this trend. As per the 2013 Employee Motivation survey conducted by Bayt.com and YouGov, work-life balance emerged as one of the key factors affecting employee motivation in the region, as 98% of the respondents claimed that achieving a good work-life balance was important for them to remain motivated at work.

While maintaining a healthy work-life balance is a priority, professionals in the region seem to be struggling to achieve this aim. This is reflected in the Work: life Balance Index conducted by Regus, where the Middle East scored 117, falling three points behind the global average of 120. The Bayt survey, on the other hand, showed that as nearly one-fourth of the employees in the region always work overtime or take work home, while another two-thirds do so occasionally.

A large part of the responsibility towards ensuring work-life balance rests with employers. Majority of the employees (especially the tech savvy younger workforce) felt that employers should offer more flexibility and allow them to work in ways that suit them, as opposed to age-old ways which respect ‘presenteeism’ at work. This includes flexible working hours, job-sharing arrangements, occasional distance working arrangements, sabbatical leave allowances, child-care units, etc. That said, the Bayt survey pointed that 58% employees felt that they receive some level of support from their employers to achieve a good work-life balance. Therefore, it seems that organizations in the region are aware of employee needs, and are developing and implementing HR policies to act on the above suggestions.

However, employees have an equally vital role to ensure that they are able to maintain the right equilibrium between their personal and professional lives. Work-life balance is for employees, and therefore we recommend that they address this issue proactively by taking the below steps to reduce stress levels, maintain productivity, & avoid burn-outs at work; all while leading an enriching personal life.

  1. Plan your working AND NON-WORKING week, and make sure you budget-in some “me time”: Yes, like with most things in life, the starting point is planning your week/day in advance and focusing on the important things, both at work and at home. Make sure that you are focused and productive during work hours, so that you do not have to work overtime or take work home with you. This is especially applicable for women, who have more domestic responsibilities to take care of once they get back home, as opposed to their male colleagues.

Individuals should look beyond their responsibilities as a professional, parent, child, etc. and budget-in some “me time”, i.e., time for activities which you enjoy doing and which help you unwind.  This could include listening to music, painting, hanging out with friends, a walk on the beach, etc. You can choose your activity and its periodicity (daily/weekend/other), but make sure to make it a part of your routine so that you get to recharge your batteries and do not feel drained.

  1. Be aware of your company policies: More often than not, companies are more flexible than employees think, and are willing to be flexible, especially to strong performers. This could include options like work-from-home, rotational shifts, extended maternity leaves (for women) or even a sabbatical from work. So, make sure that you understand your company policies well and are availing the flexibility that you are entitled to.
  1. Learn to say NO at work and at home: A key element to achieving work-life balance is to prioritize your tasks and learn when to say NO. This could be at work (filling-in too often for a colleague or being part of a new initiative just for the sake of it) or at home (neighbour-related tasks). Saying no is not easy, but it allows you to stay focused on things that are most important to you and which you like doing more. Remember you are not a superman or superwoman so you can’t do everything!
  1. Embrace telecommuting for work use of technology at homeTechnology is perhaps the single most potent tool for improving efficiency and work-life balance. So, check with your employer about the option to telecommute/work-from-home. Also, embrace technology more often for domestic tasks like paying bills, etc. Trivial as these may seem, such small steps ultimately save you precious time and energy.
  1. Maintain transparent communication with your boss and organization: It is important to have a good working relationship with your boss so that you can share your work-life related concerns. Make sure that the relationship is cordial yet professional, and that you are meeting or exceeding your organization’s expectations, in order to expect flexibility from them.
  1. Focus on staying healthy and fitNothing beats a healthy body and mind, so make sure that you are taking the right diet and are getting adequate sleep to rejuvenate yourself. Try to include some exercise in your routine as well.

Ultimately, each one of us needs to decide what works best for us, while keeping our families and organizations in mind (no one lives in a vacuum!). Therefore, it is important to create your own methodology, and keep changing it with time as the situations in your personal and professional lives evolve.

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Workplace Wellness: An investment well worth it

Workplace Wellness-An investment well worth it

  • Approximately 20% of the UAE population are living with Type II Diabetes, ranking the UAE in the top 20 worldwide.
  • There is also a link between obesity and productivity levels at work and studies have shown, workers who are overweight are less productive.
  • Since many employees spend more than half of their waking hours at work, companies are slowly starting to realize the important role of Wellness Programs.
  • However, employers need to start thinking about wellness as a long term valuable asset to their employees, who will in turn work better for them.

Healthy employees are the key behind every successful business. Since many employees spend more than half of their waking hours at work, companies are slowly starting to realize the important role of Wellness Programs. Such programs are designed to help:

  • Reduce medical costs
  • Reduce absenteeism and presenteeism
  • Increase employee morale and job satisfaction
  • Reduce staff turnover
  • Increase productivity levels
  • Increase organizational effectiveness
  • Decrease employee turnover

It’s no secret that the UAE is not the healthiest country. Approximately 20% of the UAE population are living with Type II Diabetes, ranking the UAE in the top 20 worldwide. Research and statistics report on diabetes across the UAE suggest that the disease will cost an estimated Dhs 10 billion by year 2020 if the condition is not treated. Workplace wellness programs can improve dietary habits through education and a supportive work environment where employees can work together to reach personal goals.

There is also a link between obesity and productivity levels at work. Studies have shown, workers who are overweight are less productive at a value of over 42 billion US dollars. When compared to the productivity levels of workers who were at a healthy weight, employers could save approximately 11 billion US dollars by investing in programs that educate their employees on overall health and wellbeing.

Stressed employees do not work at their maximum potential. The UAE is not an easy place to work and jobs in this region can bring about longer working hours, higher demands, and increased pressure. Thus, there is a need for workplace wellness programs to help employees carry out their daily tasks with higher productivity levels to avoid increased stress levels (which can also lead to other health and performance concerns). A stress-free employee will perform better when carrying out daily tasks and thus have higher productivity levels.

What’s in it for the employer?

Employers may see workplace wellness as low priority, as it is a long term investment, where results may not be seen right away. In fact, workplace wellness is a service that is not tangible at all, so what’s the point? Similar to diets, workplace wellness will not work if you don’t commit to changing an entire work environment. A healthier workplace can’t happen overnight and it can’t happen with one “health day”. Employers need to start thinking about wellness as a long term valuable asset to their employees, who will in turn work better for them (see below diagram).

Workplace Wellness-An investment well worth it-1

Companies like Johnson & Johnson have seen the benefits of investing in employee wellness programs. In specific, from 2002 to 2008, they estimated a cumulative savings of $250 million  US dollars. This calculated to be a return on investment (ROI) of $2.71 (US) for every dollar that was spent.

Sources:

– Gulf News: http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/health/diabetes-likely-to-cost-uae-dh1…

– Ricci, J. & Chee, E. Lost productive time associated with excess weight in the US workforce, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 47 (10), 1227-1234, 2005 

– Berry, L.L., Mirabito, A.M., & Baun, W.B. What’s the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs? Harvard Business Review, 2010

– Berry, L.L., & Mirabito, A.M.  Partnering for Prevention With Workplace Health Promotion Programs. Mayo Clin Proc ;86(4):335-337, 2011.

The article is written by Alison McLaughlin for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review