UAE – The Gensler Research Institute, today, announces the findings from its Global Workplace Survey 2024, offering fresh insights into the future of workplace. The comprehensive global study shifts the focus from employee presence in the office to workplace performance. A high-performing workplace is no longer solely defined by building efficiency or space effectiveness, it is also measured by the workplace experience—or, how the space drives higher performance and, therefore, improves the business’ bottom line.  

Gensler surveyed more than 16,000 office workers across 15 countries, and ten industries, with The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and The United Arab Emirates (UAE) representing the Middle East markets. This global study examines top performers at individual, team, and organizational levels, and highlights what comprises a high-performing workplace within and beyond the office, to include findings at the scale of the building and neighborhood which have been shown to affect performance.

The Ministry of Economy in The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has launched the Fifty Economic Plan for building a future-focused economy. The strategy includes five key pillars: integrated economy, entrepreneurship and small and medium-sized enterprise (SME), tourism, foreign direct investment and exports, and attracting and retaining talent. The plan aims to achieve a quantum leap in the national economy by the year 2030 and support GDP growth by creating a flourishing local business environment and enabling UAE companies to excel and lead worldwide.

Recent data from the World Bank's Global Economic Prospects Report 2023 indicates a significant uptick in foreign direct investment (FDI) in commercial real estate, with the UAE experiencing a 20% increase compared to the previous year. These investments serve as cornerstones in fostering an ecosystem conducive to talent acquisition and development, essential for realizing the ambitious objectives set forth by the UAE government. By leveraging these strategic investments, the UAE is not only fortifying its infrastructure but also attracting top-tier talent, positioning itself as a regional leader in service-led industries on the global stage.

“It’s time to redefine workplaces for the next evolution of work. Organizations and leaders need to shift their thinking beyond just returning to the office and instead focus on the opportunity to design high-performing spaces for people to work at their best,” said Janet Pogue McLaurin, Global Director of Workplace Research at Gensler.

Jose Faine, Workplace Design Director, Principal, Middle East added: “As designers we don’t just look to end our process at design stage, our goal is to design for impact beyond this and build value and longevity for our clients. Tapping into local government initiatives means we can substantiate our thought processes. It’s great to see the results of our Global Workplace reflect the recent work we have been doing on projects like Riyad Bank and even for older projects such as the VISA HQ in Dubai. Gensler remains steadfast in its support of global talent acquisition, high performance and competitive advantage for its clients in the region."

According to the report, 94% of employees in exceptional workplaces have a choice in where they work within the office, granting them the autonomy to work across multiple settings and promoting a higher sense of value and engagement. For the first time, the new survey goes beyond office walls to reveal how exceptional workplaces perform as part of a broader ecosystem of spaces and experiences. These top-performing workplaces, often located in amenity-rich neighborhoods, are part of a wider environment that includes diverse spaces such as libraries, cafes, outdoor areas, and coworking spaces. 

Key Findings and Data:

  • Top performers set the standard for workplace value.
    • The most engaged workers value the workplace for the learning, networking and socializing opportunities:
      • UAE workers are the second most engaged of the 15 countries surveyed, spending as much as 62% of their time working with others, learning or socializing.
    • At the individual level, the most engaged employees prioritize socializing and learning, while strong teams seek in-office connections, and innovative companies thrive on collaboration, both in-person and out of the office.
    • The survey shows just 17% of the UAE workforce still work from home, with 49% being back in the office while the other 66% work from coworking spaces, third spaces or on site at client offices. This is a clear reflection of the volume of the UAE’s SME workforce. SME’s make up more than 94% of companies in the UAE and 86% of the private sector workforce.
  • The UAE flags a gap between where people work and what they say they need to work for optimal performance.
    • Only 49% of people work from the office, however, 71% say they need to be in the workplace to maximize their individual and team’s productivity.
    • With “to focus on my work” cited as the highest ranked reason to be back in the office.
  • Globally, exceptional workplaces offer an ecosystem of experiences beyond the office
    • Building quality has a direct relationship to workplace quality. High-performance workplaces have access to 2.6 times as many amenity spaces on-site and 1.6 times as many amenities and services in the surrounding neighborhood.
    • Higher-quality buildings are more likely to be in amenity-rich neighborhoods that enhance workplace performance and experience, underscoring the importance of strategic location and design.
  • Exceptional workplaces fuel top performance
    • Workplace performance varies by country with the UAE ranking third.
    • There is a direct, positive link between top performers globally, at all scales and working in a high-performing workplace:
      • 96% of employees in high-performing workplaces say they have control over how they manage their time at work, compared to just over half of those in low-performing workplaces.
      • 99% of employees in the most innovative companies say that they would recommend their organization as a great place to work, compared to just 37% in the least innovative.
      • 97% of the most engaged employees say they are likely to stay with their company next year, compared to just 53% of the least engaged.

The Gensler Research Institute conducted an anonymous, panel-based survey of over 16,000 full-time global office workers across 15 countries including U.S., Mexico, Canada, UK, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and the Philippines. Respondents were distributed across 10 client industries and represented a broad cross-section of company sizes, roles, ages, and geographies. The survey was fielded between Oct 31, 2023, and Jan 29, 2024. Respondents excluded full-time remote workers.


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About Gensler

At Gensler, the value of our work stems from its positive impact on human experience. We are a dynamic and collaborative design firm uniting creativity, research, and innovation to solve complex problems for our clients. Our work challenges conventional ideas about architecture and the built environment. We aren’t just designing buildings — we are reimagining countries and places that make a difference in people’s lives. Founded in 1965, Gensler has built a team of 6,000 professionals who partner with clients in over 100 countries each year. Everything we do is guided by our mission: to create a better world through the power of design.

About the Gensler Research Institute

 The Gensler Research Institute is a collaborative network of researchers focused on a common goal: to generate new knowledge and develop a deeper understanding of the connection between design, business, and the human experience. Through a combination of global and local research grants, and external partnerships, we seek insights focused on solving the world’s most pressing challenges. We are committed to unlocking new solutions and strategies that will define the future of design.