x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

'Firms need to help employees with stress'

A consultant says companies need better systems to deal with stress among staff as spiralling rents, gridlocked traffic and the higher cost of living increase anxiety levels.

ABU DHABI // Companies need better systems to deal with stress among staff as spiralling rents, gridlocked traffic and the higher cost of living increase anxiety levels among workers, according to a consultant. "There's currently a huge demand and need," said Carole Spiers, who runs an international stress consultancy based in London. "It's a very fast-paced environment, I think it's a very stressful place to be. I have one company that has doubled in size over the past year: there's a knock-on effect. Expatriates are being brought into the business and working alongside Emiratis and everybody has different ways of working. This exponential growth can be a major cause of stress."

Ms Spiers who has clients in Malaysia, Germany, India and Australia, says the UAE is unique because of its rapid expansion and the "melting-pot" of nationalities trying to work together in a high-pressured environment. "What's happening in the region is that the structures aren't always in place. HR [human resource] systems, grievance procedures; they don't have some of that simple infrastructure. They have to learn how to manage their stress effectively."

Expatriates, many of whom are away from their families and natural support networks, may find life in the UAE particularly hard, but Emiratis are not immune, Spiers said. "There have been major cultural changes for Emiratis. They are now caught up in this fast-paced environment that just didn't exist 10 years ago." Ms Spiers, whose clients include Etisalat, Ducab, and Xavier, has been working with firms in Dubai for three years and says she is increasingly focusing on the country as demand rises.

The Holistic Health Centre at the National Hospital says about 60 per cent of its patients come in with stress-related disorders. Stress at work can cause headaches, migraines and depression and cut performance. In severe cases it can lead to high blood pressure and heart problems. Techniques to relieve it, such as going for a walk, can also be difficult in the heat. "The expertise just isn't there at the moment," says Ms Spiers. "They have to outsource the expertise.

"If you compare Dubai to Abu Dhabi there's a lot of difference there. It's much less pressured. People seem to have more time in Abu Dhabi, it's a different pace. lmorris@thenational.ae