Seventy per cent of professionals in the UAE and Saudi Arabia have considered leaving or have left their jobs because of a lack of flexibility amid a widening disconnect between employers and employees about returning to the office after the Covid-19 pandemic, according to LinkedIn.
Dubbed “flexidus”, the finding comes despite 97 per cent of hiring managers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia saying their companies had improved working policies since the pandemic to offer greater flexibility to employees, according to the professional services network, which surveyed 504 hiring managers and 1,006 employees in the region between January 21 and 31.
“The impact of the pandemic on how we work has been transformative and research globally is pointing to an increased urgency for greater flexibility and empowerment in the workplace,” Ali Matar, head of LinkedIn Mena and EMEA venture markets, said.
“We have all seen presenteeism take a back seat in favour of quality talent and work, and we believe the new world of work carries that legacy forward, helping us create an inclusive welcoming work experience for all professionals.”
Globally, employees are leaving their jobs at much higher rates than normal. About 42 per cent of remote workers said if their company does not continue to offer options to work from home in the long term, they will look for a job that does, according to a March 2021 survey by financial services company Prudential.
This signals that a “war for talent” may be looming if companies do not address workers’ needs, the survey, which polled 2,000 adults working full-time, found.
There is still a growing disconnect between what companies are offering and what employees want, the findings showed. While about 74 per cent of professionals in the UAE and Saudi Arabia think the pandemic has exposed how employers need to change their approach to flexible working, 55 per cent of workers said their company had not introduced flexible working policies, LinkedIn found.
About 74 per cent of employees surveyed said flexible start and finish times is the most useful policy, while 74 per cent cited an increase in annual leave and 72 per cent opted for a four-day working week, determined by the employer, according to LinkedIn.
The lack of flexibility at work had a significant impact on women’s careers, the research showed. Among female employees who had to quit their jobs because of the lack of flexible working conditions, 20 per cent said their career progression has been held back, while 22 per cent said they will only consider roles that have robust flexible working policies, the LinkedIn report said.
About 56 per cent of professionals in the region also said they plan to take a career break in the near future, it said.
Furthermore, 18 per cent of women surveyed feel there is a stigma attached to flexible working and 24 per cent have hidden their flexible working from colleagues, clients or friends, according to LinkedIn.
About 37 per cent of women surveyed said the ability to work more flexibly would improve their mental health and 32 per cent said it would help them thrive at the workplace, the report added.
Meanwhile, 78 per cent of companies in the UAE and Saudi Arabia said they are now more open to hiring a professional returning from a career break, but 47 per cent said they would be wary of applicants who were not upfront about their break, the LinkedIn survey found.
“We have been given an incredible opportunity to re-shape the world of work and it’s critical we remember to keep people at the heart of it to truly build ‘work that works’ for everyone,” said LinkedIn's Mr Matar.