MADINAH: Madinah Development Authority finalized an agreement with the UN Human Settlements Program, UN-Habitat, on the sidelines of the Smart City Expo World Congress 2022 in Barcelona.
The agreement will strengthen cooperation between both parties within the Global Urban Observatories areas, the Sustainable Development Goals’ cities program, the People-Centered Smart Cities program, and organization of the World Urban Forum, due be held in Cairo in 2024.
Both organizations will also cooperate in the organization of the Smart Madinah Forum, to be held in 2023.
The UN-Habitat Program will review the agreement to discuss options that will support the authority in achieving SGDs.
It will also support the directions to be taken by the city in this area, with Madinah viewed as a key example of people-centered smart cities because of its flexibility and sustainability characteristics.
The authority presented its experiences and expertise in smart cities in the Madinah Pavilion during the Barcelona summit.
It also took part in dialogue sessions with several government bodies during the congress.
Study on Saudi workplace wellness identifies key challenges, suggests solutions
Report by Tuhoon, a Saudi tech startup founded in 2021, incorporates feedback from 4,000 employees
Culture surrounding mental health in the Kingdom appears to be improving despite limited available data
Updated 27 January 2023
DUBAI: Although mental health issues present a significant challenge to productivity, a benchmark survey in Saudi Arabia has revealed yawning gaps between the services that human resources departments claim to provide and what employees believe is actually on offer, with employees largely unwilling to discuss workplace stress.
For the report, entitled “State of Wellness at the Workplace,” researchers talked to 4,000 employees in the Kingdom’s public and private sectors to assess where challenges arise in the workplace and how to fix them.
The study, which was compiled by Tuhoon, a Saudi tech startup founded in 2021, was carried out in collaboration with the Saudi National Center for Mental Health and the Ministry of Health.
“The surveys were filled out anonymously, which made workers more receptive to talk about their issues,” Tuhoon CEO Fares Ghandour told Arab News.
“We found females are more willing to talk on a personal level but they opt out of discussing their mental health in the workspace as they do not wish to be perceived as weaklings. We also found workers above the age of 45 are less likely to talk about their mental health than younger generations.”
Tuhoon recently launched a smartphone app designed to help users improve their mental health, manage stress and get better quality of sleep through personalized, culturally relevant audio content.
This content includes meditation and mindfulness exercises, sleep stories, masterclasses, book summaries, deep-focus music, and emergency playlists. It is curated by doctors, clinical psychologists, and certified meditation and self-awareness coaches.
The study indicates that more than 80 percent of Saudi workplaces have no budget to support the mental health of their employees, despite the rising number of workers reporting a decline in their well-being.
The report says that the lack of mental health monitoring has taken a significant toll on the cultural and economic performance of many organizations, and the private sector is perceived as offering less assistance than the public sector.
According to the report, most workplaces are failing to prioritize the mental health of employees. It says that 78 percent of organizations do not measure their workers’ mental health at all, 82 percent have no dedicated resources for mental health services, and 52 percent do not provide health insurance cover for mental health.
It also says that at least four out of five employees experienced at least one mental health problem in the past year. The most common symptoms were anxiety, burnout and stress, as well as depression, relationship challenges and loneliness.
The available data on the issue of wellness in Saudi workplaces, including details of programs and benefits employers offer their workers, remains limited but the culture surrounding mental health does appear to be improving.
However, the Arab world in general lags in this regard which Ghandour says is why he founded Tuhoon.
“I have been investing in tech businesses for nine years,” he told Arab News. “I decided I wanted to build and invest in something I am passionate about, and the mental health cause is dear to me.
“I approached Dr. Naif Almutawa, a clinical psychologist, and Aymane Sennoussi, who became co-founders, and I put my time, energy and effort into making Saudi Arabia and the Arab world a happier and healthier place.”
Mental health problems are among the leading causes of disability worldwide, with depression topping the list. They can affect people regardless of age, culture and socioeconomic status.
The World Health Organization estimates a quarter of the global population will suffer a mental health issue at some point during their lives, and that about 12 billion working days are lost each year to depression and anxiety at an annual cost of $1 trillion in lost productivity.
The Tuhoon survey of Saudi workplaces posed the question: “How would you rate your mental health over the past 12 months on a scale, from 0 to 4?” It found that 24 percent of respondents ranked their mental health as below average.
Among the respondents, women were 62 percent more likely to develop a mental health problem than men, while 44 percent of women in work were found to be prone to burnout and anxiety compared with 32 percent of men.
The research also revealed that 57 percent believed work-related stress affected their mental well-being.
Of the 50 human resources departments that were surveyed, 59 percent said their organizations did not provide mental health insurance coverage, and 82 percent said their companies did not have an employee assistance program. EAPs are designed to help workers resolve professional and personal problems that might be affecting their productivity.
The results of the Saudi surveys compare with the findings of a 2022 workplace report entitled “Mental Health in America” in which one-third of HR professionals said their organization provided no mental health services to employees, 27 percent said their organization was not sure of the proper benefits to provide, and 18 percent said their organization was unsure of what plan or insurance to offer workers.
In the UK, according to a 2022 study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, there is weak leadership on the issue of mental health in the workplace, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. Figures show that only 29 percent of employers are able to spot early signs of mental health problems in their workers. Less than half (42 percent) of employers said that their leaders focus and encourage positive mental health by actions and behavior.
Good mental health is viewed as a key measure of prosperous and successful nations and organizations.
The Kingdom’s public sector scored higher (45 percent) than the private sector (36 percent) in terms of the proportion of employers that offered health insurance coverage that includes mental health services. Ghandour believes this is because the public sector plays such a major role in the Saudi economy, and so employees are looked after relatively well in an effort to maintain high productivity levels.
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According to studies by the Arab Barometer research network, however, more than half of residents in the Arab world find it hard to find decent mental health services. And globally, organizations struggle in the execution of HR policies designed to support mental health.
In 2019, the Saudi National Mental Health Survey found that 34 percent of people had experienced a mental health issue at some point in their lives, with blue collar-workers more open to reporting the challenges they faced than their white-collar counterparts.
It also found the most prevalent mental illnesses in the Kingdom were separation anxiety disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, major depressive disorder, social phobia, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Better-educated Saudis were more prone to such conditions.
Some 80 percent of respondents afflicted by a serious mental illness said they had not sought any treatment, while 8.9 percent said they had gone to a religious adviser or non-medical healer for help.
Experts say that to promote a healthier work culture, employers need to prioritize well-being, work to reduce the stigma that still surrounds mental illness, and provide mental health coverage for employees.
Tuhoon believes workplaces need to start viewing mental health as a collective issue rather than an individual problem. It recommends nine cost-effective steps to improve workplace mental health and, as a result, boost productivity.
These steps include workshops to raise awareness of the issue, and webinars on topics such as stress management, dealing with burnout, and increasing connectivity between workers. It also suggests offering additional days off to increase morale, training managers to spot mental health problems in workers, and creating a more welcoming and trusting work environment.
Furthermore, Tuhoon urges employers to promote workplace behaviors that reduce burnout by encouraging workers to take time off if needed, offering a more flexible work environment, promoting a healthy balance between work and personal life, and creating a “check in” culture.
Additional recommendations include encouraging employers to use mental health assessments as a tool to measure stress and challenges, and to connect workers with helpful resources if needed.
Tuhoon says mental health “first aid” courses could also provide staff with the skills they need to detect the early signs of stressors and provide solutions and rapid responses to help distressed workers.
This could further reduce the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace. Appointing “mental health ambassadors” would also contribute to more open and supportive conversations in the workplace.
Regarding the well-being of women in particular, Tuhoon urges employers to adjust workplace policies and encourage female employees to report harassment and sexual assault through the provision of a proper platform for doing so. Salaries and promotions must also be fairly determined regardless of gender.
Finally, employers and employees are encouraged to show gratitude in the workplace and introduce mechanisms through which workers feel able to talk about things or people they are grateful for inside and outside of work.
Tuhoon believes this could lead to enhanced job satisfaction, fewer sick days, the promotion of a positive and more trusting work environment, and increased productivity.
Saudi heritage event in ancient Uqair port attracts more than 60,000 visitors
Updated 27 January 2023
RIYADH: The “Uqair Inscriptions” event held along the banks of the ancient seaport city in Al-Ahsa in the Eastern Province concluded on Wednesday with more than 60,000 visitors attending, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday.
The event, organized by the Kingdom’s Heritage Commission in cooperation with the Culture and Arts Association in Al-Ahsa, included heritage and folklore performances and traditional handicrafts unique to Al-Ahsa through dramatized scenes of life from the past in the historic port.
The scenes also depicted its position as an important commercial gateway on the coast of the Arabian Gulf, from the arrival of sailboats to the port to loading the camel convoys with goods headed toward Al-Ahsa and Najd.
The event also included a photographic exhibition displaying pictures of the founding king in Uqair in 1915.
Uqair is the first seaport in the east of the Kingdom on the Arabian Gulf coast, the economic gateway since the beginning of the establishment of the state, and the main port to reach the east and center of the Kingdom.
During that time, the state worked to develop the port by establishing customs, passports, a principality building, and fortress, and goods and foodstuffs were brought to the heart of the Arabian Peninsula and the capital, Riyadh, through this port.
Saudi chief of the general staff meets number of officials in Italy
Updated 27 January 2023
ROME: Saudi Arabia’s Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Fayyadh Al-Ruwaili on Thursday began an official multi-day visit to Italy, where he is scheduled to hold talks with a number of high-ranking Italian officials.
Upon arrival at Ciampino Military Airport in Rome, he was received by the Italian Chief of the Defense Staff, Admiral Giuseppe Cavo Dragone.
Al-Ruwaili met with Italian Minister of Defense Guido Crosetto and discussed bilateral cooperation and opportunities to bolster joint military coordination.
Al-Ruwaili visited the headquarters of the Defense Staff, where he met with Dragone and discussed a number of topics and means to enhance that cooperation.
The Saudi commander then met with Secretary General of Defense and National Armaments Director Lt. Gen. Luciano Portolano.
During a meeting with Gen. Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, commander of Italian Joint Operations Headquarters, Al-Ruwaili also discussed bilateral relations as well as means to enhance defense cooperation with him.
He also toured several companies linked to the Italian defense industry, including Fincantieri shipbuilding company, electronic-warfare specialist Elettronica, Leonardo Defense, and European multinational developer and manufacturer of missiles MBDA, where he was briefed about their military and defense products.
Entertainment authority announces Riyadh Calendar activities
Activities and entertainment zones will continue until mid-March
Updated 26 January 2023
RIYADH: Riyadh Season 2022 and its wide range of entertainment options in the capital may have come to an end, but there are reasons to be happy following the General Entertainment Authority’s launch of the Riyadh Calendar.
In a statement to Arab News, the GEA said that Riyadh Calendar activities and entertainment zones will continue until mid-March.
The Groves, Boulevard World, Boulevard Riyadh City and other zones will feature a variety of activities, with different dates and opening times.
Expected events include “Earth Voice Night” on Feb. 1, in honor of the late artist Talal Maddah, at Mohammed Abdo Theater in Boulevard Riyadh City.
Visitors can book for events through the Enjoy platform on the link: https://enjoy.sa/en/
Riyadh Season 2022 kicked off on Oct. 21 with more than 8,500 activities, under the slogan “Beyond Imagination.”
The third season offered visitors a wide range of entertainment options across 15 zones, each characterized by a variety of activities and events, including stores, cafes, restaurants, games, theaters, and a number of new global experiences.
The zones include Boulevard World, Boulevard Riyadh City, Winter Wonderland, Al-Murabaa, Sky Riyadh, Via Riyadh, Riyadh Zoo, Little Riyadh, The Groves, Imagination Park, Al-Suwaidi Park, Souq Al-Zel, Qariat Zaman, Fan Festival and Riyadh Front.
The Groves zone inside the Diplomatic Quarter offers visitors the experience of living in the North Pole through the ice lounge, the first of its kind in the Kingdom, with temperatures as low as minus 18 C.
Food, fashion and family fun are also available in the zone. Visitors can book tickets via the app.
A 35-meter-tall Light Ball, another highlight of Riyadh Season 2022, has become a new landmark in the capital and is the largest illuminated LED ball in the world, according to Guinness World Records.
Former Saudi national guardsman adds string to bow with archery medals
Mohammed Al-Shami picked up the sport of archery after losing his right hand in a terrorist attack in 2007 that forced his retirement
Updated 26 January 2023
RIYADH: A former soldier in the Saudi Arabian National Guard has become a professional archer, winning a number of competitions and awards despite competing with a disability sustained in a terror attack.
Mohammed Al-Shami picked up the sport of archery after losing his right hand in a terrorist attack in 2007 that forced his retirement.
He was treated at King Saud Medical City and was sent to the Rehabilitation Hospital at King Fahd Medical City in Riyadh.
But Al-Shami’s physical disability failed to dent his positive outlook on life.
Ambition cannot stop in the face of “minor problems,” he told Arab News. Instead, Al-Shami believes that problems can give purpose and make people stronger.
Every day, Al-Shami, who usesa prosthetic hand, wakes up with a smile and spreads positivity.
His journey in archery commenced when he registered for the Kingdom Marathon at King Saud University.
“Captain Mishaal Al-Otaibi was explaining to visitors how to shoot … so I went to him and told him I wanted to try it. He looked at me and said ‘come later,’” Al-Shami said.
After waiting for three hours, Al-Shami again went to the captain, who told him to return once more after two hours.
When Al-Shami went back for the second time, he asked the captain: “Can handicapped people throw arrows or not?”
Al-Otaibi then gave a bow and arrow to the former guardsman and told him: “Go ahead, shoot.”
Al-Shami said: “I put the bowstring between my teeth, pulled it and threw it hard, and it settled in the middle of the target, in the bullseye. The captain was impressed. He then taught me how to develop my abilities.”
During the course of his rigorous training, Al-Shami shot 1,000 –1,200 arrows per day to improve his accuracy and technique.
He took part in the 2017 World Championships in Athletics for People with Disabilities at the Dubai Club for People of Determination, winning a gold medal.
Al-Shami also won gold and silver medals at the Sheikh Fazza Championship in the UAE in 2019.
His determination earned him third place in archery in the Kingdom’s My Disability Distinguishes evemt in 2022.
Al-Shami said that archery is the only sport that gives him determination and strengthens his focus.
In the future, he aspires to establish a charitable sports center for archery and taekwondo, where people of all ages can learn the basics of the sports and build bright futures for themselves.
“My biggest professional project is to help put Vision 2030 into action by building the biggest and most ambitious investment and charitable sports center. This will be a one-of-a-kind project with the goal of spreading and graduating professional teams in archery and taekwondo.”
Al-Shami hailed a 2019 decision by the Saudi Paralympic Committee to promote archery for people with disabilities around the Kingdom.