The increased rate of Covid-19 vaccinations in the UAE has surely accelerated plans of companies to make employees return to their traditional way of working from the office. However, around 70 per cent of companies in the UAE are still practising the hybrid working model more than a year after the outbreak of the pandemic.
HR industry executives, and senior officials from management consulting firms, believe that the hybrid work model is the new norm in the UAE, and it’s here to stay. Barring certain sectors such as retail and healthcare, many key sectors such as finance, professional services, administration and back offices are still following the remote work model.
“More than 60 per cent of firms offer remote work options and most of them are now moving to hybrid working modules. The only exception for such work modules could be service, frontline, industrial or healthcare roles that require employees to work on-site. While profession that has potential for remote and hybrid work modules include information sectors, finance, professional services and consultancies, education, back office and administration support,” he said.
Vijay Gandhi, regional director for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Korn Ferry, a global management consulting firm, says over 70 per cent of companies in the UAE are practising a hybrid approach as long as the workflow is not interrupted.
Besides frontline workers and retail shops where the job requires to work from the office, most companies are still practising the hybrid model, he said.
“We have seen the government and semi-government sectors moving to work from home for all employees. However, many organisations in the services sector have remained flexible. They work from home and come to their workplace for few days during the week on a rotation basis. If companies are overly focused on location, they’re applying an old mentality to a new world,” he said.
Vaccine and remote working
Gandhi said local companies are encouraging employees to come to work but the trend is different in multinational companies who are still guided by global policies on coming to work.
Patel said the vaccination programme in the country has surely accelerated plans to make employees return to their traditional way of working from the office. “However, a majority of firms, especially technology sectors, are also looking to extend the remote and hybrid work modules, and include such arrangement for sales professionals where they could continue hybrid work as long as they meet the company's expectations.”
Impact of the hybrid model on allowances
Gandhi said there is no reduction of allowances for working from home. "The centre of gravity is shifting, from a place of work to a location for collaboration. As such, productivity will define the Total Reward and not the work location.”
Patel echoed Gandhi’s views, saying that they haven’t observed any companies reducing allowances for employees in case they work from home.
“However, allowances relating to employees' travel might be affected because it has been restricted due to the Covid-19 situation. Overall as long as the employees meet the overall objectives of the organisation, KPIs and expectations, there wouldn’t be a need for a reduction,” he added.
The recruitment agency Michael Page survey of job seekers has revealed a majority (41 per cent) don’t see a connection between benefits, salaries, and remote work. While 32 per cent of respondents predicted that home workers would receive more targeted benefits like internet supplier and electricity subsidies. The other 27 per cent saw the glass as half empty.
What employees prefer?
Employees in the UAE want more flexibility when it comes to remote working and prefers the hybrid model.
An Adecco Middle East research showed that three out of four employees would appreciate more flexibility and a mix of office-based and remote working.
“This helps them to have a work-life balance and cost savings on the commute, whereas a complete remote model could have a considerable impact on the mental health of employees making them feel isolated and burnt out. Organisations should not be afraid to embrace flexibility. Rather, the evidence suggests that the role of the physical office will remain important in the post-Covid-19 world,” says Patel.
Gandhi said the hybrid model is popular as it gives flexibility to people to work from home and come to the office on a need or rotation basis.
A survey by Michael Page of 425 job seekers in the UAE revealed that more than 8 out of 10 candidates polled, believed they could fulfil their tasks or responsibilities remotely.
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