Dubai: Many UAE employees find themselves being more productive at home since the new guidelines were imposed to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country.
The drastic rise in working-from-home, driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, has not significantly damaged staff productivity in the UAE, reveals research by Willis Towers Watson (Nasdaq: WLTW), a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company. Movement restrictions that were imposed in the beginning of April were eased from April 26. Offices were allowed to open but with only 30 per cent of employees while 70 per cent are still required to work remotely.
In a survey of UAE businesses, 22 per cent of employers said that the new working arrangements have actually increased productivity, 11 per cent said there had been no change, while 39 per cent said there was only a small negative impact. No employer reported a large impact, and just 11 per cent said any drop in productivity was at worst ‘moderate’.
More remote working
The move from the office to working from home during the pandemic is a major shift in business practices in the UAE. Two thirds of employers (66 per cent) now say that over 75 per cent of their workforce is working remotely. Before COVID-19, the vast majority (81 per cent) said less than 10 per cent of their workforce worked remotely.
Asked when they were thinking of stopping their new flexible working arrangements, 77 per cent of UAE firms said they have no end date in mind, while 13 per cent are thinking of the end of June. The government has eased restrictions since the time of the survey, but because working from home is generally working well, Willis Towers Watson does not believe there will be a push by businesses to get staff back to the office, especially with concerns about social distancing.
Thom Janssen, Middle East Head of Employee Insights, Willis Towers Watson, said: “The pandemic has forced us into a massive experiment in working from home, and many employers are relieved at how well staff productivity has held up, or even increased. Technology like fast broadband has been a huge enabler, and workers have been quick to switch to tools such as video conferencing.
“The UAE has always strived to be a leader in smart working and, as we emerge from this crisis, this is a great opportunity to re-imagine how work can get done. Employers have seen that staff can be just as productive away from the office, and that may spark a greater shift to more agile working options, which could have implications for office real estate and the wider economy.”
Challenging for businesses
Janssen said: “While this is a challenging time for businesses, it is also placing huge stresses and pressures on individual people. Good employers are thinking of ways to help their staff navigate the pandemic, through better communication, more flexible working, and improvements to benefits packages.
“This is a game-changing leadership moment for many companies. Those that put their people first will be best placed to emerge from the crisis with higher employee well-being, morale and engagement, which will all be essential for the future success of any business,” he noted.
The survey also looked at what employers are doing to help staff cope with the pressures and changes caused by COVID-19, and found:
* 42% of employers have increased staff access to counselling services, with a further 17% planning to do so.
• 41% of businesses have removed any exclusions or limitations relating to pandemics from staff medical / life / disability plans, with 7% planning to do so.
• 64% are running virtual social engagement initiatives for teams and departments, to help people stay in touch and socialise, with a further 17% planning to do so.
• Although 97% of companies are regularly communicating with staff to keep them updated, most are not doing enough to listen to their workforce at this critical time.