A large percentage of professionals across various sectors in the UAE, who took part in a survey, prefer virtual working environments to remain in the post-pandemic era, signaling that remote working practices are becoming a new normal.
The survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Bayt.com also identifies other worker preferences and expectations concerning full-time office returns, career progression drivers, and personal values
Prior to Covid-19, the UAE had one of the lowest remote work participation rates in the world. Ten per cent of workers in the country reported working from home one to two days per week, compared to a global average of 62 per cent, according to a 2019 survey by International Workplace Group.
According to research by cloud based communications company Circle Loop, the UAE is the leading country in the Middle East for remote working. The UAE ranked ahead of countries including Italy, Japan, Hong Kong, Ireland, Malaysia, Russia, the United States and China. The UAE was ranked first in the Middle East for its readiness to facilitate remote working and 31st globally.
However, according to BCG report, in terms of remote working during the crisis, the UAE is below the global average. “Driven by the early restart of businesses and the majority of jobs being in the service, industrial, and retail sectors, 43 per cent of respondents said they are working in some form of remote arrangement compared to the 51 per cent worldwide."
"In addition to the work models people wish for in the future landscape, the UAE workforce is somewhat more open to not returning to the office. Considering the country’s high readiness for digital capabilities to enable remote work, 31 per cent indicated they would prefer to work at home on a full-time basis compared to the 24 per cent at the global level,” said the joint report, with the findings based on the inputs of 707 people nationwide.
“The transformational workplace changes that transpired when the outbreak first emerged have been well-documented, with workforces suddenly forced to transition practices and processes to digital for continuity purposes,” said Dr. Christopher Daniel, managing director and partner, BCG Middle East.
He said what was unknown at this stage was how successful this would be and how well employees would adjust and become acquainted with the new reality.
From a UAE standpoint, the pandemic has, for the most part, actually had a positive impact on work practices and processes, said Dr. Daniel.
Across the UAE, workforces want the flexibility associated with remote working to remain in place. “What is also apparent are the reasons behind work-related preferences, stances on diversity and the environment, and how both are likely to affect professional decisions moving forward,” said Dr. Daniel.
According to the report, even in remote working environments, relationships with colleagues and management remain the most important, closely followed by career development opportunities. However, job stability and security have become more important to workers in recent years, with work-life balance and training to learn new things and develop skill sets becoming somewhat lesser priorities.
Of the UAE respondents, 70 per cent of young people and 77 per cent of people overall confirmed that these issues now impact their job preferences, higher than the 68.7 per cent globally.
The report said in terms of environmental responsibility, 72 per cent said related issues have become more important over the last year, echoing the UAE leadership’s drive to prioritize sustainability as part of its long-term plans. This figure is marginally higher than the 69.6 per cent globally, while 51 per cent said they would exclude companies that do not match their environmental sustainability beliefs, slightly lower than the 51.7 per cent average worldwide, said the report.
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