UAE - Careem has announced the official launch of Phase 2 of its Remote-First strategy, which will build on the success of the first phase that was launched last year, while expanding to cover the need of employees that prefer to meet in person for brainstorming and target-setting sessions.
During an virtual meeting on Wednesday, officials at Careem revealed that a two-month ‘Officeday’ pilot programme has been launched, which started in June in the UAE. Under the pilot programme, Careem is asking colleagues in the UAE to return to the office for one day each week. The UAE was specifically chosen for the pilot because of its successful progress in its vaccination programme, with over 12 million Covid-19 vaccine shots administered.
“When we announced our permanent shift to remote-first, that announcement was built on a conviction of what we had experienced from March to September last year,” said Mudassir Sheikha, CEO and co-founder of Careem. “It was a pretty seamless and productive work environment and we felt that we got a pretty good look at what the future of work could look like. We did some work to realise how beneficial this move can be for business, our ability to recruit talent, our productivity, and the flexibility that it will provide our colleagues.”
He also revealed that, during this time, through several internal surveys and continuous dialogue, Careem understood that some of its colleagues want to return to the office in groups to facilitate planning, problem-solving, brainstorming, and team building activities. Careem’s Remote-First plan seeks to ensure all team members are able to meaningfully contribute and participate in a way that does not disadvantage them. The company ensures that everyone is able to work productively, no matter where they are located.
“We’ve always believed that in-person interactions are an integral part of our culture and a powerful lever for collaboration. This is reflected in our Remote-First approach, which included plans for a ‘Weekly Officeday’ from the start,” Sheikha said.
Ruth Fletcher, VP of People and board member at Careem, added that the remote work strategy will remain the default for most colleagues. “However, this does not mean that the company’s offices will close or that 100 per cent of colleagues will work 100 per cent remotely all the time. We will simply design the organisation to support people working in virtual teams and in different locations. Our offices, meanwhile, will be transformed into collaboration-friendly work spaces for those with inadequate home offices and for teams to collaborate.”
Safety, she said, will be a high priority for the colleagues returning to the office for the one day a week work policy. “The office will have socially distanced hot spots for innovation and safe engagement.”
Careem will launch a variety of structures to equip the workforce with the tools and skills necessary for higher autonomy. This includes ‘Leadership Training Programmes’ and ‘Remote-First Playbooks’ for teams across the entire organisation to build awareness and skills on leading as well as engaging in a remote world. Leaders will be trained on developing culture and social activities, building meaningful connections and running social activities virtually.
“The idea is for us to test assumptions about what work is best done together in-person, and further develop our tools and approaches for successfully involving distributed colleagues in other locations in this work. We’ll gather learnings from this pilot and iterate on our Remote-First ways of working to drive productivity, effective collaboration and strengthen the Careem culture,” Sheikha said. “Hopefully, this will be a ‘game changer’ not just for Careem but also for any other company in the region. The purpose of Careem has always been to simplify the lives of people and build an awesome organisation that inspires.”
He added: “We feel that a lot of infrastructure challenges still exist in the wider region that this new future of work, of being a Remote-First, can leapfrog. Our hope and aspiration is that Careem leads the way in defining how it should be done, making it successful, and encouraging many businesses and startups to follow suit.”
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