As the coronavirus spread across the globe, it became clear that the world’s people were all in the same storm, but not the same boat. No other region reported being affected as much as the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce 2021 Report. 54% of the people in the MENA said the coronavirus situation affected their lives “a lot,” nine points higher than the the global average (45%.) Turkey ranked third with high sadness (35%) worry (40 %) and stress (64%) levels.
The impact of the coronavirus hit every element of people’s wellbeing — career, financial, physical, social and community — but in the MENA region, its hardest punch according to respondents was economic, according to the Gallup report. Over half, 54%, of those with jobs at the time of the pandemic reported working fewer hours and 23% lost their job or business. Almost half, 48%, of those employed at the time of the pandemic lost pay as employers cut wages to stay afloat. Though working men were much more likely to lose income or a job than women (54% vs. 37%, respectively) — which tracks with the greater proportion of men than women in the local workforce — age didn’t seem to affect who lost wages at work as generations were affected at equal rates.
Globally, Gallup’s World Poll found substantial increases in experiences of sadness, worry and stress among workers employed for an employer during 2020. Employees in the MENA region reported the world’s highest rates of sadness (35%, up eight percentage points from 2019). Worry also increased (46%, up five points from 2019), and half (50%) said they were stressed “a lot” during the previous day.
Poor wellbeing costs businesses
As recovery from COVID-19 continues, a focus on health and wellbeing are first-order priorities in the MENA region. Gallup estimates that poor wellbeing costs businesses USD 20m of additional lost opportunity for every 10,000 workers globally. Though business leaders can significantly affect all the elements of wellbeing for individuals and for teams in their organizations, the element they can have the most direct impact on is their employees’ career wellbeing.
Arguably the most important of all wellbeing elements in the workplace, career wellbeing is so fundamental that “unemployment might be the only major life event from which people do not fully recover within five years,” said Jim Harter, Gallup Chief Scientist of workplace management and wellbeing practices and coauthor of Wellbeing at Work. That means unemployment can take a greater personal toll than marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or the death of a spouse.
84% of MENA employees are not engaged
Gallup researchers find that leaders around the world can best support employees’ career wellbeing by coaching to their strengths, connecting them to the organization’s mission and purpose, and focusing on employee engagement. However, the State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report found that 84% of MENA employees are not engaged or are actively disengaged. Embracing the untapped potential across the region in increasing engagement or focusing on individual career wellbeing is critical to meeting private and public-sector organizational outcomes across the region.
Higher life evaluations and wellbeing are positively associated with productivity, innovation, and safety and reduce disengagement, shrinkage, and healthcare costs. The faster leaders boost employee engagement and wellbeing, the faster they will create a more prosperous future for the region’s workers and businesses.