Dubai: As many UAE workers head back to the office on Sunday after months of lockdown, going back in a new normal has provoked mixed emotions.
Some are eager to take up position again at their desks – no matter the masks, gloves and social distancing – while others have grown accustomed to work-from-home, introduced in March as a precaution against coronavirus.
In Dubai, starting on Sunday, 50 per cent of government employees have been allowed back into the office, with precautionary measures in place. In two weeks, on June 14, all government employees in Dubai will be given the green light to reoccupy workstations.
Many private sector staff have also returned or are expected to resume soon.
Pakistani marketing professional Zubair Haider, 41, was asked to come in to work a few days ago.
“It’s a great feeling to be back and see all the familiar faces again. Times have changed though – temperature checks, masks, sanitisers – it’s the new normal. But the overall vibe is good,” said Haider, who lives in Ajman.
He added that he had not missed “struggling with the traffic” but was grateful “it’s still not so bad as the old days”.
Sunday will mark the first day back for Shaazia Qureishi (who runs a Pilates studio in Dubai) and her team since the shutdown in mid-March.
Qureishi’s team had switched to Zoom classes during the closure. “Honestly, it felt like it was more work for less revenue, but we’re grateful there was income. The instructor had to work thrice as hard to pass on their energy, through Zoom, into the client’s home,” the 28-year-old expat from India said.
The gym will continue Zoom classes while resuming studio classes as some clients are not comfortable coming back just yet.
“I think we managed really well during the lockdown. We had team huddles online at 9am, pretending we were coming into work. We kept the morale up and we’re all excited to be back. And we’re coming in with all the precautions.”
‘Anxiousness is there’
Slated to report to his Dubai office soon, Filipino PR professional Debrie Dela Cruz, 32, said he is feeling “50-50” about it.
“The anxiousness is there, you keep seeing the stats of [positive COVID-19] cases every day. Yes, when you’re working from home, you can’t go out that much. But there’s always that fear of going out after being at home all this time,” Cruz added.
Miqdaad Dohadwala, a 31-year-old advertising professional from India, is also expecting to re-join the office soon. His WFM (work from home) spell in Dubai has been smooth.
“Surprisingly, we realised 99 per cent of work is easily done from home. Some companies, like Facebook, are allowing permanent WFM for many employees. My initial perspective towards back-to-work is that I’ll have a routine, I’ll be going out of the house more,” Dohadwala said.
He is also a stand-up comedian who has his own company. “When it comes to that [business], I think the mentality will take a little more time to re-adjust, to be in a room again with 100 people watching the show.”
Pros and cons
For Insiya Lightwala, face-to-face interactions with colleagues are an essential part of her work as a structural engineer. That is a major reason why she is “looking forward” to stepping into the office again, which could happen soon.
“As a team, we would make live corrections on drawings. With WFM, it means what used to take 10 minutes now takes half a day to get implemented,” the 29-year-old Indian expat said.
Is there anything she will miss about WFM?
“Not having to dress up to go to work; I can just roll out of bed and ‘be at work’. I’m not missing the commute.”