How workplace culture can increase employee engagement

The UAE has the highest percentage of fully engaged workers, surpassing countries such as the US and China, according to a study

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Google is seen at the high profile startups and high tech leaders gathering, Viva Tech,in Paris, France May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo
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You can sense when a workplace is creative and appreciates thinking out-of-the-box. Stepping into Google’s offices is a case in point.

The company is known for its strong emphasis on work and productivity, an open culture, its appreciation of creativity, exploration, eating well and having fun in the process. Much of this is evident across the company’s workspace. Google is a place where employees can comfortably spend long hours away from home, and has become one of the most desired places to work.

Locally and regionally the Abu Dhabi Youth Hub, a community space for the UAE's youth, which went live last week, is a centre of creativity is a prime example of evolving workspaces. Located on Abu Dhabi’s Corniche Road, the strategic location could accommodate over 1000 people and is designed with the youth and their needs in mind. From meeting rooms, a filming studio, work desks, a gallery, theatre, art studio, library to the availability of 3D printers, everything on location is made with the intention of investing in our youth’s potential and empowering them to create, and develop our country.

The Youth Hub’s space illustrates how empowering people with the right environment and tools can unlock their potential.

More and more people are discussing how work culture affects levels of engagement given industry findings that show low levels of employee participation despite companies having engagement strategies. About 84 per cent of employees are not fully engaged at work and not contributing to their organisations, according to a global study conducted by ADP Research Institute published this year.

According to the study, the UAE has the highest percentage of fully engaged workers at 26 per cent, surpassing countries such as the US where the engagement level is at 17 per cent, and China at 6 per cent.

When looking at the worksite, or office space, remote workers were more engaged (at 29 per cent), than those who work at an office (18 per cent), according to the study. This is where the question of office culture and having creative environment becomes important. The study found that gig workers (or freelancers) were fully engaged at 21 per cent in comparison to 15 per cent of fulltime workers. The high engagement level was attributed to the fact “that using their strengths gives them power.”

All organisations no matter how big, small, or which industry they operate in, have creative people, and the right culture is what brings that creativity to the surface.

From experience, I found designing a comfortable space is important, but equally critical creating a culture that appreciates creativity, new approaches, and encourages employees to own their work.  At our company, when we delegated more, and encouraged employees to own their work, and come up with creative solutions to problems, our staff was happier and also more productive, and innovative. This is exactly what you could sense at Abu Dhabi’s Youth Hub. The space is open, well equipped, with the tools that nurture ideation and creativity.

This is what needs to be done on a corporate level. Employees should have the support, direction from their management, but equally important is the autonomy to be creative.

We are living at times, where creativity and a supporting work culture are integral to the success of a business. Integrating these elements in the workspace can help create the next Google in the region.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi