Tech overload? 68% of UAE workers feel high pressure over remote working

Employers can intervene, manage staff's overuse of technology: Aetna International

Shot of a young woman using a laptop while working from home. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Shot of a young woman using a laptop while working from home. Image used for illustrative purpose.


Technology has been a blessing for a lot of UAE employees in an increasingly remote world, but it has made it harder for them to switch off from work even when at home, according to a new study.

About seven in 10 people (68 percent) surveyed in the country said that they now feel increased pressure to respond to work outside office hours, while 72 percent feel that the line between work and home life has been blurred, according to Aetna International.

The study, which polled more than 4,000 workers across the UAE, Singapore, United States and United Kingdom, highlighted the “digital dilemmas” that businesses now face with their staff, especially in relation to remote working.

It also echoed the results of earlier studies related to the impact of remote working on employees during the coronavirus pandemic. In one of the studies, it was found that the majority (57 percent) of employees in the UAE work on weekends during the stay-at-home period.

“The ‘always on’ culture is having a significant impact on people, as personal and professional boundaries blur during the work from home phase. People feel that they can never switch off from work, even during the evenings or on weekends,” Jerome Droesch, chief executive officer (CEO) of Cigna Corporation, a global health service company, told Zawya earlier.

Despite their inability to switch off from work, the Aetna International’s study found that workers are able to manage their workloads better, so they’re experiencing less stress. In fact, 82 percent agreed that technology provided them more time to exercise.

The findings indicate that employers should find ways to manage technology overuse during remote working in order to promote staff’s mental health and wellbeing.

“Our research shows there is a very clear opportunity for businesses to harness the positive power of technology to help support and improve health and wellbeing,” said David Healy, CEO for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Aetna International.

“However, as we do so, it is vital that we acknowledge that an always-on culture is simply not compatible with mental or physical wellbeing,” he added.

The results of the study also showed that employees in the UAE would welcome the idea of introducing a business policy to manage technology and screen time use, with 79 percent saying it would help them manage their physical health better.

About the same number (75 percent) also believe that managing the use of technology would also be good for their mental health.

Currently, many companies (more than 44 percent) don’t have any guidance in place to deal with technology overload, Aetna’s research also found.

“As restrictions in the UAE begin to lift, I would encourage employers to set the bar high when planning their approach to employee health and wellbeing support post-lockdown. Now is the perfect time to reassess the technology and policies you have in place and to make a positive commitment to integrate humanity, compassion and trust into your corporate culture,” said Healy.

Droesch noted their own research also found that technology has played a big role in helping people stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues during the lockdown.

“In fact, 79 percent of respondents claimed to have more flexible workdays and improved communications with colleagues. Interestingly, there was a drop in the level of loneliness despite being physically isolated from others. We found that people had improved communication with colleagues as well as family and friends,” Droesch said.

(Reporting by Cleofe Maceda; editing by Seban Scaria)

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