There’s no doubt that many of us have recently tried the experience of teleworking - or work from home - and see whether it’s productive.
The guidance for its implementation at the UAE level came at an appropriate time, which demonstrated the level of progress and the importance of having high-performance IT departments prepare for such crises. Some of them almost didn’t change anything in their systems, and there is no doubt that others needed time to equip themselves.
Also, thanks to the departments of risk, quality and human capital, and others that contributed to this experience, it went off smoothly. At the top was the well considered actions of the National Emergency and Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, and at the head of the pyramid, the wise leadership, that spared no effort at home and abroad to address this global challenge.
Set of challenges
Many of the technical challenges faced was provide for infrastructure that accepts access through secure systems and follow the highest standards of security. The second challenge is to maximize the ability of backbone systems to support and accommodate all staff’s devices to connect securely to servers.
The third challenge is to provide devices for the staff to be able to access these systems and provide communication tools and other systems. The fourth challenge is for entities to provide electronic services to the public and ensure the provision of all services without the need for any home visit.
Thankfully, numerous entities have done so with full professionalism and mastery, the most important of which is the Distance Learning System, which has proven its effectiveness. Others also provided all this in record time, as is usual for the UAE and Sheikh Zayed’s sons.
This experience has revealed there are many benefits from all of this, the most important is that the majority of those who now have the experience can fully accomplish their tasks without having to go to work. There is no doubt there are some tasks that require office attendance and direct supervision, such as the sectors excluded from the The National Sterilisation Programme.
In a Twitter poll, 62.6 per cent of the 1,640 participants expressed their happiness with the experience of teleworking and that it is an excellent option to accomplish their tasks. And 25.5 per cent expressed that it is not suitable because of the nature of their jobs - this is close to reality, as 25-35 per cent of jobs could not be transferred to teleworking.
Finally, 11.9 per cent expressed their desire to come to work for one reason or another.
Teleworking has many benefits, the most important is reducing traffic in the streets, and thereby reducing the psychological pressure on employees. It also allows work to be accomplished more efficiently, as evidenced by the statements of many tech managers that employees have been in touch more than before and are doing so due to the psychological comfort.
Teleworking also saves the institution the cost of offices and services provided such as parking and other equipment. As for parents, teleworking allows them to spend more time with their families, reinforcing the family fabric that contributes to enhancing productivity and following up on children, which leads to a more harmonious generation.
Likewise, some posts in which tasks are assigned to external employees may suit such an option.
But controls as well
It is mportant to establish controls for employees and strengthening the focus on productivity, not just attendance. Productivity here is the substance of the issue, as this falls with the identification of clear tasks for each employee before assigning him to telework. The employee may be required to come to the workplace once a week or month for one reason or another.
This experience has been summarized by many as “Getting ready for the next 50 years”. After this health crisis soon subsides, we can reconsider the issue of teleworking and its dependence on several uses.
The first of which is to make it available to be used by employees for some days each month of five- to 10-day duration, or to specify a period through the year whiere it can be used, say for 45 days. Or make it available when necessary and in coordination with the department manager, provided conditions are applied.
The exercise must be conducted annually or every six months to practice and study, similar to the fire and safety tests of civil defense.
By using the principle of teleworking, many new type of jobs can be developed for many tasks and take advantage of the untapped workforce.
- Ahmed Alzarouni is a Dubai-based tech enthusiast.