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Zain launches ‘RISE’, a Middle East first for organizational mental wellness support

KUWAIT: Zain Group, a leading telecom innovator in seven markets across the Middle East and Africa, announces the launch of RISE, a groundbreaking mental health initiative for Zain personnel, and the brainchild of Vice-Chairman and Group CEO, Bader Al-Kharafi. The timely introduction of RISE coincides with Mental Health Awareness Month 2021, which runs the course of May.

The pioneering initiative within Zain is one of the first such programs to be offered across a private organization in the Middle East region and is aimed at creating a more inclusive organization that considers and supports its employees given rising work pressures in modern commercial environments and at a time when COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on working norms.

Zain firmly believes that when leaders actively engage in mindfulness practices, the “psychological capital” of an organization rises. It is expected that RISE will increase employee retention, loyalty, morale and engagement as well as reduce medical costs and employee absenteeism.

Two activities that will immediately be available under the new initiative include a Group-wide subscription to Headspace for all Zain’s 7,000 employees, and mental health counseling and therapy from psychologists provided either in-person in Kuwait or virtually across six other operating markets in partnership with Kuwait Counseling Center (KCC).

Commenting on the RISE initiative, Zain Vice-Chairman and Group CEO, Bader Al-Kharafi said, “We consider our people’s mental health as our psychological capital. Throughout our history, Zain has shown time and again that we are not afraid to tackle sensitive or taboo issues. Given the ongoing pandemic and its resulting disruption to working norms and rising levels of uncertainty in normal life, we have identified mental health issues for our people as an important area to be managed.”

Kharafi continued, “Our greatest asset is our people, and for Zain to remain successful, we need to make the conditions of employment as supportive and uplifting as possible. We are determined to confront all our people’s mental issues head-on and remedy through RISE, ensuring they love their work and perform at optimal levels.”

Headspace is a global leader in mindfulness and meditation, with more than 70 million members across 190 countries. Headspace was one of the first meditation apps in the world and remains a leader in mindfulness and mental training through its app and online content offerings that cover everything from stress, movement, sleep, focus and more.

Headspace for Work (H4W) is its science-based employee mental health solution, working with more than 2,000 companies to help them build healthier, more productive cultures and higher performing organizations. H4W is an upstream, preventative workplace mental health solution that focuses on keeping healthy people healthy, not just on treating the unwell.

Jolawn Victor, Chief International Officer at Headspace said, “We are delighted and honored to work with Zain on their RISE initiative. The last year has exacerbated the challenge of balancing our work and home lives and we believe in the need to integrate well-being routines across all 24 hours of the day, not just during business hours or when we finish work. Mindfulness has many scientifically proven benefits, and we are thrilled that Zain leadership is prioritizing their team’s mental health and leading the way for other organizations in the region.”

Kuwait Counseling Center is one of the region’s leading psychological centers providing psycho-educational, comprehensive assessments, therapy, training services for more than 10 years. KCC’s corporate programs have served more than 30 multinational companies and will now be working on assisting and educating staff at Zain with personal and work-related problems on destressing techniques, mindfulness, and ways to create a calmer, more productive working environment.

Dr Joanne Hands, Clinical Director of Kuwait Counseling Center and President of the Middle East Psychological Association said, “Your current emotional circumstances should not limit where you can go, they tell you where you need to start. You are not alone! We firmly believe that addressing workplace mental wellbeing can help strengthen the positive, protective factors of employment and reduce risk factors for mental illness and burnout and improve general health and productivity. We are delighted to partner with Zain and support this unique initiative which will set the standards for corporate wellbeing and mental health in the region.”

Among early initiatives being introduced under RISE, Zain will roll out mandatory 15-minute breaks during working days between 10am and 3pm to afford staff the opportunity to access content from Headspace. Moreover, both Headspace and KCC will provide therapy to Zain personnel to overcome: Stress and burnout; Family problems; Substance abuse; Eating disorders; Depression and Anxiety.

Absenteeism is often a by-product of negative working environments created by stressful conditions, do end up costing the organization as a result of lost working hours. Working from home, as many of people are being forced to do given the pandemic, gives rise to stresses of its own, be it a sense of isolation or disconnection, or difficulty in managing how and when to transition from work to personal time while occupying the same space.

The issue of well-being at work and the effects of the negative environment that can be created by stress was articulated in a study by workforce consulting firm Life Meets Work, which revealed that when manager and leaders are stressed, their anxiety can be felt across the entire organization, often to the point where good employees will walk away from a job to save their own health.

The study also found that when leaders fail to manage their stress in a constructive way, more than 50 percent of their employees perceive their leader as harmful or ineffective. Further, when leaders are unable to manage stress, employees lose their drive to advance within the company.

One of the most effective ways to manage stress is through mindfulness, which relates to a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. In due course, Zain intends to evolve the RISE initiative to also include use of Artificial Intelligence for Mental Health in line with the company’s ‘4Sight’ digital transformation strategy.

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