The COVID-19 effect: Wellbeing, mental health, and inclusion among managers in Egypt

Ingy Deif, Wednesday 22 Sep 2021

The study surveyed over 1,200 business executives and managers from various parts of North America, Middle East, Europe, and Asia

Mental health
Illustrative image of a general view of busy office. AFP

Bupa, a world-renowned medical insurance organisation, released an in-depth global survey on 20 September that analyses the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on managers and executives physically and mentally.

The study surveyed over 1,200 business executives and managers from various parts of North America, Middle East, Europe, and Asia.

Despite worries over the recovery of the economy and a decline in mental health prevailing, the survey clearly shows that executives have tried to redefine existing working models and corporate values in order to improve the circumstances of their business modules.

Egypt’s stance

In the ‘Executive Wellbeing Index’ issued by Bupa, a substantial section stressed on the situation in Egypt.

“Egypt is the only developing country in our study that experienced positive economic growth during the pandemic, which brings so much promise and hope,” Mohamad Bazzi, the managing director of Bupa Egypt, said in a press statement.

“However, this year’s data has also unearthed that many of the people in our survey are surrounded by uncertainty, and as Egyptian businesses navigate through the COVID-19 crisis and into the ‘new normal’, there has been a renewed focus at an organisational level on employee wellbeing and mental health to help their businesses thrive.”

Mental Health: Exceptional challenges call for exceptional solutions

Declining mental health has been one of the challenges that faced many heads of business in Egypt as well as all over the world due to the pandemic.

With global efforts focusing on mass COVID-19 vaccinations and re-openings, the study has shown that the pandemic is still very much at the front and centre of everyone’s attention.

Although the physical impact of the pandemic is slowing down, evidence of its effect on the mental health of mangers, executives, and high-earning employees and individuals is still alarming, with 82 percent reporting at least one symptom of mental stress.

The most commonly reported challenges are feeling down, sadness, or anxiety at 41 percent, feeling angry or impatient at 31 percent, and experiencing mood swings at 29 percent.

It has been noted that discussing issues of mental health is being normalised in Egypt ever since the pandemic, and thereby high-net-worth individuals have also been recognised for being proactive in dealing with their challenges, with 92 percent of subjects having made life changes to manage or prevent their mental health concerns, which is higher than the global average — 84 percent — and second only to the UAE’s 96 percent.

Wellbeing foremost: Flexibility is here to stay

The report shows that workplace wellbeing initiatives are a priority in Egypt to boost mental wellbeing, with 54 percent of organisations introducing initiatives and 32 percent planning to do so in the near future.

37 percent of participants believe that an increased focus on wellbeing and mental health is essential if organisations want to recruit the best talent.

Companies in Egypt have shown their ability to adapt with the challenges of the past year by re-evaluating existing working models; for example, by encouraging wellbeing among employees.

Last year’s research showed that over 70 percent of Egypt’s managers and executives believed the pandemic accelerated the country’s transition to digitisation.

Changing values: More humility and inclusion

This study also revealed a change in perspective on how high-net-worth individuals value corporate leadership qualities, where understanding (41 percent), humility (39 percent), and cultural intelligence (32 percent) were the main attributes for the ideal CEO.

The pandemic has shifted priorities and pushed decision makers to take into account individual needs in order to thrive as an organisation.

The most striking change when analysing the corporate structure in Egypt is a shift towards inclusion in the workplace, with 98 percent of leaders planning to increase the number of women and people from different socio-economic groups.

“Leaders in Egypt are prioritising the individual wellbeing of their employees. With almost all decision-makers making this conscious effort to encourage more inclusive representations in company boards. It is clear that we are at the brink of a shift in the overall wellbeing of all sectors in the working society,” Bazzi explained.

“As we continue to try and find the right balance to navigate the pandemic’s effects on the work environment, we are seeing a lot of promising adjustments that will definitely stand the test of time.”

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