Maryam finds herself shifting nervously at her desk at work. She checks and rechecks her schedule, and each time she does, something new gets added to her “to do” list for the day. She checks her watch and helplessly sees the seconds ticking away. The phone is ringing off the hook. There is no way out.
Sounds familiar? The feeling of having “too much on the plate” aggravated by the pressure of having to deal with an array of priorities and the commitment to appeasing too many people at the same time has become a regular feature of the corporate world and UAE is no exception.
Despite being a global employment destination that boasts of lucrative opportunities, world-class comfort and a tax-free salary, 42% of 700 UAE workers chose the word “stressful” to describe their workplace in a recent study. This surpasses the global average of 35% wherein UAE only fared better than South Africa with 48% as per a 2016 Global Report by Steelcase.
Stress, burnout and job switch are startlingly becoming common in the fast-paced UAE corporate culture. That said, there are ways and means by which you can make the best of an overwhelming situation, by following some basic strategies.
Here’s how you can take control of your work day:
Plan and prioritize: When faced with a monumental list of tasks to be completed, it is always a good idea to take some time out and make a concrete plan to accomplish them instead of fretting. It could be as simple as a blueprint of the day ahead. Start by listing down your tasks and dividing your day into ‘time blocks’ to get tasks accomplished faster. For instance, you can decide to set aside some time every day, say 2 to 3 pm, to check your emails. This helps you focus on the allocated job and do not let your mind wander. Planning is an effective ploy to increase productivity.
Fix it, forget it: When too much is on your plate, it’s time to give the nagging perfectionist in you a rest. Working smart and not hard is the key to getting your goal(s) accomplished. Start with one task at a time, find the shortest and simplest way to do it, delegate if possible and move on without unnecessarily working yourself up. You might also consider “kissing the frog first”, that is, doing the most complicated or dreaded task right in the beginning. Trust us, the sense of relief you will get after that will help you complete the remaining in no time.
Focus on your happiness: It is important not to get carried away with all the work that lies ahead of you. Turn inwards once in a while and focus on being happy. Consider deskercising or lightening up with a short walk, taking a power nap or simply indulging in small talk with your colleagues. Over 95% of employees in the UAE believe they would be more productive if they were happier in their workplace, according to a research by insurance firm Bupa Global. In this respect, an Emirati career has the potential to be more fulfilling than others, considering the fact that UAE appointed a Minister of State for Happiness and launched the National Programme for Happiness and Positivity in 2016.
Talk it out: Having a ‘sounding board’ at your workplace or your home can be especially helpful at such times. Take time out to talk about your plans, progress, goals, and setbacks with someone you feel comfortable with. Even listening to your own roadblocks may induce considerable clarity and mental relief. This is especially recommended if you are having a particularly long stretch of heavy workload that involves extra hours and overtime. Having someone who cares, listen to you, is hugely therapeutic.
Learn to say ‘No’: It’s time to get real. Ask yourself: “Is it humanly possible to get all this done in time?” Be honest in this self-evaluation. If you think, the impossible is being asked of you, take time out to talk to your supervisor and let him/her know the reality of the situation. Consider saying no. Being realistic about your workload is essential in avoiding work-induced anxiety, burnout and the urge to switch jobs on an impulse.
While it is not possible to waive off the stress completely, you can deal with it effectively. The Government’s National Happiness and Positivity Program is also working towards healthier work environments in the UAE with initiatives such as the Corporate Happiness and Positivity Model - a unified model for all government entities with three pillars: corporate happiness culture, happy and positive staff requirements, and corporate happiness and positivity indicators.
As the saying goes, ‘If there is a will, there is a way’ – and with a little effort, you can make your Emirati career a resounding success!