Healthy work-life balance is key to job productivity, "Gulf News"
27 June, 2012 - Dubai, United Arab Emirates - The UAE is known for its great lifestyle options, but a huge portion of its working population are struggling to find the right balance between work and personal life. Many employees have resigned themselves to a life of long work hours and less days off that they barely have time for anything else.
This is primarily because the UAE has a fast-paced corporate culture and it is home to highly results-oriented organisations that deal with the global market. Besides, since the financial crisis, many employees have been working double time for fear of another wave of redundancies, while others have taken on additional duties due to staff shortage.
"The UAE and the wider Middle East is home to businesses that cater to countries beyond the region. This means many employees are covering multiple time zones, which increases working hours," observes Hazel Jackson, CEO of biz-group.
There is also a global trend of being constantly connected with work through new technology. "Smartphones, tablets and PDAs have brought work into the home and are eating into leisure time."
"In the retail sector, businesses have moved from split shift opening hours to straight shift opening hours to increase accessibility to consumers. Then there are other stores that operate 24 hours a day," adds Jackson.
Studies have shown that the overall work-life balance in the UAE is much lower than in other countries. More than half (57 per cent) of business professionals feel they're spending more time away from home, compared to the global average of 39 per cent, according to a recent survey by Regus. Nearly 80 per cent of the employees find themselves taking on extra work as a result of the downturn.
The low levels of work-life balance in the UAE can also be attributed to employers having higher expectations in working hours. "But this is only a part of the problem. People in the UAE also have the tendency to enjoy a less diverse and more predictable lifestyle in the majority," says Ewan Walton, head of Gulf region for Pedersen and Partners.
Walton observes that people working in other GCC countries who tend to have bigger social groups and live a more diverse lifestyle believe their work-life balance is good and they are happier when talking about their current situation.
"Employer's expectations for employees to work longer hours in the UAE are much greater. The major reason for that is because the majority of the workforce are employed in corporates, whereas in other Gulf countries, most people are hired by family businesses and the government. In [the corporate sector], your job can often be in jeopardy if you don’t put in the extra hours,” Walton says.
“A minority of family businesses across the GCC do work to an international standard where the expectations matching the corporate world are there, but the majority of family businesses and government/semi-government organisations do not have high expectations on extra working hours, leaving the employee more time to enjoy with friends and family.”
Then there is the economic distress to blame. “Since the global meltdown happened in 2008, employees are working longer hours because they want to prove themselves dedicated in case a round of redundancies come,” adds Walton.
Experts recognise that it is not ideal to work long hours and put one’s personal life at stake. In addition to causing stress-related health problems and issues in personal life, heavy workloads are a clear contributor to a dip in productivity.
“The lack of energy caused by working too much on one day will undoubtedly lead to low productivity the next day. If this is practised regularly, it could even lead to job burn-out,” warns Jackson.
Recent studies in France and the UK show that although UK professionals clock in more work time, French workers are more productive while they are at work.
“Working long hours for the sake of it is not productive, but those who work to live find that the more you put in to work while you are there, the more you can get out of life in general,” says Toby Simpson, managing director of the Gulf Recruitment Group.
Written by Cleofe Maceda for Gulf News
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