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Dubai: More than half of employees in the UAE remain sceptical about returning to the workplace amid growing concerns surrounding COVID-19.

A global survey published on Wednesday by Cigna’s COVID-19 Global Impact Study has revealed that the prospect of a return to physical workplaces is creating new anxieties among employees. Carried out across 11 countries, the majority of respondents – at 42 per cent – said they were concerned about catching the coronavirus because of travel, in-person meetings or common working spaces. This rose to 54 per cent in Singapore and 51 per cent in the UAE, but fell to only 19 per cent in Hong Kong.

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The study was carried out between January and June 2020, and included participants from the UAE, mainland China, Hong Kong, Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, UK and US.

Jason Sadler, president of Cigna International Markets said: "The pandemic has dramatically impacted our working and personal lives. While the office still has a role in terms of building culture and collaboration, the experience of the last few months has demonstrated that home based working can also be highly effective. However, this also brings challenges and employers need to think carefully about how they can support their staff who are working remotely, by checking in with them regularly."

Employees’ needs

The report also highlighted the different kinds of support employees would prefer as they return to the workplace, as well as the gap in terms of what support employers are currently offering.

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Most employers appear to be taking their responsibilities seriously, with 52 per cent who said their employers offer protective facemasks and hand sanitisers. However, 73 per cent of UAE workers said they would like subsidies on extra expenses, such as protective and sanitising products, as well as on their utility bills when working from home. Despite this, approximately one in five globally (19 per cent) said that their employer already had suitable measures in place, while 29 per cent of UAE employers have stepped up to offer this support.

Mental health support was another area that was identified. Although nearly a quarter (24 per cent) said their employers currently offer support, 50 per cent said they would like more. New Zealand (40 per cent) and UAE (34 per cent) employers have led the way with the provision of mental health support, compared to only 15 per cent of Korean and 16 per cent of Hong Kong firms.

Goodbye to the traditional 9-5 job?

Up to 60 per cent of people surveyed said they were able to work from home, which played had a major impact on people's attitudes to work culture in the future.

Over half of people (53 per cent) said they would like to work from home at least half the time in the future, which rose to 67 per cent in Singapore, and 56 per cent in Spain and Thailand.