Fear of stigma deters UAE employees from availing health benefits
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Fear of stigma deters UAE employees from availing health benefits

Fear of stigma deters UAE employees from availing health benefits

Many employees are reluctant to use health and well-being benefits offered by their employer

Many employees are reluctant to use health and well-being benefits offered by their employers for fear of being judged, a survey has revealed.

Fear that their career progression would be impacted if the management found out that they were struggling was the top reason (29 per cent) cited by respondent on not accessing health and well-being benefits offered by their employer, a study by Aetna International polling over 1,000 workers in the UAE revealed.

Meanwhile, 22 per cent said that they didn’t feel comfortable accessing benefits as they felt no one else did and 20 per cent also worried about how they would be perceived by colleagues if they used health and well-being resources. More so, 27 per cent of UAE respondents cited worrying about HR/management finding out details about their mental health as a key reason to avoid availing benefits.

“We know from previous research that businesses in the UAE have notably increased their support for employee health and well-being over the last 18 months, and have become much more sensitive to the stress, anxiety and other pressures people face on a daily basis,” commented David Healy, CEO EMEA at Aetna International. “In spite of these best efforts, these findings suggest that a significant number of employees may try to cope alone with mental or physical health challenges. Sadly stigma, particularly around mental health, means some employees still believe they could face repercussions if they reveal they are struggling, which should never be the case in any workplace.”

The survey data shows there are a number of steps employers can take to remove this stigma and encourage employees to seek relevant help.

· Encourage leaders to be more empathetic and enhance communication on health and well-being — 35 per cent of UAE respondents said they would be more likely to access health and well-being support if leadership communicated more about available resources.

· Build a culture and work environment where employees feel safe to openly discuss the physical, mental and emotional issues they are facing — 33 per cent of UAE employees said that knowing there is clear policy on mental health that ensures they will not be penalised for accessing support and 38 per cent said that knowing their peers are also accessing the same resources would be two key criteria that will encourage them to use more employer provided health and well-being resources.

· Offer regular trainings and webinars specifically around practical tips for managing well-being and how to support employees and colleagues who might be struggling with mental health.

“The lessons and research over the past 18 months have made it clear that a more compassionate and open workplace culture is the first step in fostering better employee health. A culture where we encourage employees to talk about important issues, thereby easing the pressure to exude an aura of resilience — never ill, always ready for more work, available 24/7. But normalising discussions around issues such as health, and particularly mental wellness, could become one of the most important requirements of a sound talent strategy and company culture in the post-Covid economy,” said Healy.

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