With the financial pressure and heightened uncertainty caused by the crisis, mental health is quickly becoming one of Middle East employers’ top priorities in the region.

The CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, surveyed 120 HR professionals in the Middle East mid-April to identify the key challenges employers are facing during this crisis and provide a benchmark for organisations in the region. 

More employers (53%) reported that mental health and wellbeing is a key priority right now than deciding on the best way to respond to the financial impact on their business (49%), despite the uncertainty many organisations find themselves in. 

While this is good news, the survey finds that organisations in the Middle East are ill-equipped to support employees’ mental health, with a third of organisations (33%) reporting they have not done anything yet to address the challenge – often lacking the strategy or means. 

The CIPD is encouraging employers to have constant communication with their workforce and take early action to offer support such as counselling and ensure line managers are trained and confident to support employees’ continued wellbeing, both those in the workplace and those working from home. 

Most of the pressure on employees is a direct consequence of the financial impact on businesses. In the region, the most common measures taken to respond to this crisis include: asking staff to take annual leave (49%), pay or working hour reductions (41%) and redundancies (30%). While it remains a rare approach, 14% of respondents say their Executive Team are considering foregoing their salaries this year. 

The adoption of remote working is certainly the most important change that employers and managers are having to adapt to. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, less than 15% of organisations had any work-from-home arrangements and – for the majority of those – it applied to less than 10% of the workforce, the survey finds. Under the government directives however, 60% of companies report that all employees worked from since the beginning of the outbreak.

With every change comes a set of challenges. For 40% of organisations, tracking and managing the performance of employees working remotely is one of their top 3 challenges, with nearly half of employers being somewhat concerned about their employees’ productivity, and 27% being very concerned.

There have long been talks about adopting more fluid approaches to performance management. Yet, the survey and focus groups conducted show that many organisations in the region still measure performance on input rather than output – often using working hours as an indication of performance, which is posing a significant challenge in today’s conditions. 



The CIPD surveyed 119 HR and L&D practitioners from across the region between 1 and 25 April 2020. 55% of respondents are from the UAE, 14% in Saudi Arabia and 10% in Qatar. 

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