Hardworking or hardly working? Overtime takes its toll on UAE employees

It’s 7.30 pm at the office and you’re still not done for the day. The auditors have just come in and you have more files to clear. You’ve been working hard and fast but still have unaccomplished tasks to finish for the day.

The boss is sitting in the corner office. You are down and tired but have to finish the tasks assigned before you head home and even then you may be called for some urgent task.

Many employees in the UAE can relate to such a life day in and day out, leading to total burn-out at the end of the week. A new survey by Robert Half shows that a good proportion of the UAE workforce suffers from employee burn-out due to long working hours and over-time.

Four in 10 (41 per cent) UAE HR directors say employee burnout is common within their organisation, according to new research from recruitment firm Robert Half UAE. However, this figure rises to nearly half (49 per cent) of Abu Dhabi-based companies compared to 34 per cent of Dubai organisations. 

The research also reveals that nearly two thirds (63 per cent) of UAE HR directors cite ‘workload’ as the primary reason for employee burnout, followed by ‘overtime / long working hours’ (57 per cent), ‘economic pressures’ (37 per cent) and ‘inability to balance personal and professional commitments’ (33 per cent).

“It is no secret that professionals in the UAE are working hard, with heavy workloads and overtime taking their toll on employees. While companies are having to do more with less, inadequate staffing levels may result in a decrease in employee motivation and productivity and in some cases increased attrition rates as employees seek greater work-life balance with competing organisations,” said James Sayer, Director, Robert Half UAE.

Research conducted by Robert Half UAE last year showed that nearly nine in 10 (89 per cent) Dubai-based employees work longer than their contracted hours and one in four (24 per cent) working over-time every day of the week. With eight in ten (81 per cent) HR directors concerned about losing top performers over the course of the year, employee burnout and work-life balance should be primary considerations in an organisation’s retention strategy.

When asked if any initiatives had been implemented to prevent employee burnout, HR directors said they are reviewing/restructuring job functions and tasks (47 per cent), promoting a teamwork-based environment (47 per cent), encouraging employees to take time off (36 per cent) and encouraging team-building activities (28 per cent).

“We’ve seen increased hiring across the UAE, with a recent survey indicating that one in three (32 per cent) companies are planning to create new permanent positions in the first half of the year. As workloads continue to rise, hopefully the additional hiring will bring much-needed resource to over-stretched, over-worked teams, helping with morale and motivation as well as retention levels,” added Sayer.

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