The move by the UAE to adopt a shorter-day work week is bringing the debate around hybrid work into sharp focus. As the leadership of the country stated, “adopting an agile working system will enable the UAE to rapidly respond to emerging changes and enhance wellbeing in the workplace”.
To ensure organizations reap maximum productivity as well as wellbeing benefits for their workforce, one of the crucial factors within this change will be to put the employee at the centre. In fact, while COVID-19 triggered the ‘virtual age’ of the working world, we are now entering the ‘personalised age’. This new phase of work is essentially all about maximising convenience and performance, well-being, and productivity, and in the case of the new UAE work-week, answering the question: ‘How can we be more productive and achieve more in less time?’
Reimagining digital experience
Technology will play a fundamental role in the ability of employers to deliver on the requirements of the personalised age. Whether employees are in the office 4, 4.5 or 5 days of the week, or working remotely, the digital employee experience is the new employee experience. This poses several questions at all levels: How do leaders and managers adopt and model this change for all to embrace? How are IT systems adjusted to fit the change in the workweek? How do operational staff do more with less and deliver on customer expectations with shorter workdays?
The good news is that we have been working at optimising our digital workplaces in the last two years and have a full suite of solutions to meet these challenges. Organisations have upped their investments in key tech areas over the past year to digitally enable work. At the top of the list is security followed by automation, workflow and collaboration. It is time to take what we have learned and developed and apply it to the shorter workweek, empowering us all to ‘do less with more.’
A critical part of this strategy is the empowerment of managers to lead the shift to making employees work more productively, first and foremost by helping them to prioritize. As teams are dispersed, managers may no longer feel they have an overview of their reports’ workloads and may be unsure how to best utilise them. Companies can draw on technology to help managers navigate this challenge.
Tools like Microsoft Viva Insights can help leaders foster healthy, successful teams, enabling them to spot signs of burnout and making it possible to prioritize focus time.
Creating intelligent spaces
Another defining element of the future workplace is the emergence of intelligent digital workspaces. Supported by AI and machine learning, these workspaces should enable a more efficient flow of work. They should augment process execution, providing access to the data, digital, and physical and social resources that are required to complete work anywhere.
Crucially, they also help organize and locate data quicker, allowing for an uninterrupted workflow, and can take on mundane but time-consuming tasks, such as for example finding convenient meeting times for larger groups. By giving employees explicit permission to work remotely, a key consideration towards a hybrid future is that spaces and places are even more important than they were before.
Hybrid meetings, for example, are an entirely new kind of meeting that requires rethinking our approach to ensure we’re putting every attendee on equal footing, whether they are in the room or not. Recent innovations in Microsoft Teams Rooms are helping companies have impactful, engaging hybrid meetings where everyone feels included. These include features such as AI-powered active speaker tracking, enabling in-room cameras to use audio, facial movements and gestures to detect who in the room is speaking. Multiple video streams also allow in-room participants to be placed in their own video pane.
Meeting employee expectations, not just to attract and retain talent, but to enable personal well-being, will be a challenge for every leader and every organisation across the region. But if we listen to our employees and customers and incorporate flexibility and focus into everything we do, we believe we can create a better future of work and take real advantage of the 4.5 workweek.