Lama Ataya, the chief marketing officer at, tries to keep employees at the top of their game with a variety of incentives. Pawan Singh / The National
Lama Ataya, the chief marketing officer at, tries to keep employees at the top of their game with a variety of incentives. Pawan Singh / The National

A good day at the office?

What do FedEx, Microsoft Gulf, Marriott, PepsiCo Asia, Middle East and Africa, THE One, and Dulsco have in common?

They all feature in the list of the top 10 companies to work for in the UAE this year.

A balance between work and life, a culture of appreciation and an ear for employee suggestions were some of the reasons that helped them get into the list, the Great Place to Work Institute, which ranked the firms, highlighted.

"We are pleased to see new companies make the list this year and that some of our previous list makers have improved their positions among the top 10," says Michael Burchell, a partner and director of the Great Place to Work Institute UAE, which has offices in Dubai as well as major cities across the world.

"This shows they are applying what they learn from the research into models for continuous business improvement." But with only three home-grown companies making it into the report conducted in the Emirates it would seem that increasing employee satisfaction here is still a work in progress.

A survey this week from Towers Watson, a research and consultancy firm based in the United States with offices in Dubai, Paris and London, showed that staff satisfaction levels here are low compared with North America, Europe and parts of Asia.

"There is a huge opportunity to increase employee potential," said Billy Turriff, the business leader for data, surveys and technology at Towers Watson Middle East.

Mr Turriff points out that employees in the UAE are struggling to cope with high levels of work-related stress and financial concerns. There is also a lack of confidence in company executives.

"Get strong leadership on the ground to motivate and engage people and create a positive culture," says Mr Turriff. He also suggests telling employees not to answer work-related BlackBerry messages over the weekend.

Of the 1,000 employees surveyed in the UAE, only 31 per cent felt their companies promote staff health and well-being. That is 12 per cent less than the global average.

While the tough economic climate in which employees are expected to work harder is one of the reasons, the changing nature of the workforce here is also adding to the problem.

"Now a lot more people are staying longer in the UAE and making it their home," says Mr Turriff, adding that as a result worker expectations have risen.

"[Staff now want] to learn new skills [and be] rewarded in line with company performance."

The fallout of low employee satisfaction, which includes increased absenteeism and reduced productivity levels, can also hit companies financially, according to Mr Turriff.

Happy employees might also help the bottom line.

Global companies such as FedEx, Microsoft, Marriott and PepsiCo all reported an average increase of 10 per cent in earnings per share in the first quarter of the year.

Regular in-house surveys can also help companies understand the attitude of employees, observes Hazel Jackson, the chief executive of Biz-ability, which trains human resources teams.

"Some companies even carry out these surveys to adhere to corporate governance standards but don't really consider the results," she says.

Lama Ataya, the chief marketing officer at, tries to keep employees at the top of their game.

"[Perks include] generous external training allowances, flexible working hours for mothers, and an emphasis on regularly celebrating achievements," she says.

At, which employs 250 people, the management looks to motivate staff through regular team-building efforts.

"We always join events like Hercules, where different companies compete in a sports day, [and] our monthly fiesta is a way to get the creativity out of everyone. For example, our last theme was masquerade," says Ms Ataya.

The work environment is also crucial.

"Our pantries every day are very generously filled to the brim with free fresh seasonal fruit of every dimension for all employees," says Ms Ataya.

Martin Sabbagh profile

Job: CEO JCDecaux Middle East

In the role: Since January 2015

Lives: In the UAE

Background: M&A, investment banking

Studied: Corporate finance

Also on December 7 to 9, the third edition of the Gulf Car Festival ( will take over Dubai Festival City Mall, a new venue for the event. Last year's festival brought together about 900 cars worth more than Dh300 million from across the Emirates and wider Gulf region – and that first figure is set to swell by several hundred this time around, with between 1,000 and 1,200 cars expected. The first day is themed around American muscle; the second centres on supercars, exotics, European cars and classics; and the final day will major in JDM (Japanese domestic market) cars, tuned vehicles and trucks. Individuals and car clubs can register their vehicles, although the festival isn’t all static displays, with stunt drifting, a rev battle, car pulls and a burnout competition.

The Mother

Director: Niki Caro

Stars: Jennifer Lopez, Joseph Fiennes, Gael Garcia Bernal, Omari Hardwick and Lucy Paez

Rating: 3/5

War and the virus
Dates for the diary

To mark Bodytree’s 10th anniversary, the coming season will be filled with celebratory activities:

  • September 21 Anyone interested in becoming a certified yoga instructor can sign up for a 250-hour course in Yoga Teacher Training with Jacquelene Sadek. It begins on September 21 and will take place over the course of six weekends.
  • October 18 to 21 International yoga instructor, Yogi Nora, will be visiting Bodytree and offering classes.
  • October 26 to November 4 International pilates instructor Courtney Miller will be on hand at the studio, offering classes.
  • November 9 Bodytree is hosting a party to celebrate turning 10, and everyone is invited. Expect a day full of free classes on the grounds of the studio.
  • December 11 Yogeswari, an advanced certified Jivamukti teacher, will be visiting the studio.
  • February 2, 2018 Bodytree will host its 4th annual yoga market.
Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

Sweet Tooth

Creator: Jim Mickle
Starring: Christian Convery, Nonso Anozie, Adeel Akhtar, Stefania LaVie Owen
Rating: 2.5/5

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

The biog

Name: Salvador Toriano Jr

Age: 59

From: Laguna, The Philippines

Favourite dish: Seabass or Fish and Chips

Hobbies: When he’s not in the restaurant, he still likes to cook, along with walking and meeting up with friends.