UAE jobs: employees prefer hybrid and remote working models

Flexibility is key for companies to attract and retain talent, new survey finds

Mette Jensen works from home, and looks after her daughter, Sienna.
(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)

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Nearly 90 per cent of UAE employees want to work either in a hybrid or fully remote working model in the future, according to a survey by California-based technology company Cisco.

Offering flexibility to employees is also key for companies to attract and retain talent in a post-Covid-19 working environment, with 61 per cent of UAE professionals saying they would be less likely to look for a new role if given the opportunity to work either remotely or in the office only one or two days a week, Cisco said on Tuesday.

The Cisco Global Hybrid Work study polled 28,000 full-time employees from 27 countries including the UAE, UK, US, India, China, Australia, South Africa and Germany, among others. The research was conducted between January and March 2022. In the UAE, 1,050 employees were surveyed.

“Employees have experienced the benefits of hybrid work firsthand and many have expectations for it to continue,” said Reem Asaad, vice president of Cisco Middle East and Africa.

“While most organisations in the UAE recognise the importance of flexible working, there remain opportunities for further improvement.”

The jobs market in the UAE, the second-largest Arab economy, has made a strong recovery from the coronavirus-induced slowdown, on the back of the government’s fiscal and monetary measures.

Last week, a survey by LinkedIn found that 70 per cent of professionals in the UAE and Saudi Arabia have considered leaving or have left their jobs because of a lack of flexibility. This comes amid a widening disconnect between employers and employees about returning to the office after the Covid-19 pandemic.

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, the professional services network found.

This resonates with the Cisco research, which found that 83 per cent of companies in the UAE support hybrid work practices, while more than 28 per cent of respondents said their companies were “fully prepared” for a hybrid work future and 43 per cent were “prepared”.

Globally, about 25 per cent of respondents to the Cisco survey said their companies were “very prepared” for hybrid and remote working.

Meanwhile, 60 per cent of those polled in the UAE said their productivity had increased and their quality of work had improved since working remotely, the survey said.

“A successful, future ready hybrid model must, in equal measure, deliver secure connectivity from anywhere, while also maintaining trust, well-being and unity among highly distributed teams,” Ms Asaad said.

Major companies around the world are allowing staff to work in a hybrid or work-from-anywhere environment, including Apple, Facebook owner Meta Platforms and Microsoft.

The law firm where few people 'go to work'

The law firm where few people 'go to work'

Last month, Airbnb, the global online marketplace for homestays, said it will allow its employees to work from anywhere permanently, in a bid to further improve flexibility.

Even Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, told The National earlier this year that “we have to move to a hybrid [working] model”.

While UAE companies have taken positive steps to help their employees adapt to hybrid work, 70 per cent of respondents to the Cisco survey said their company needed to rethink its culture and mindset for it to be truly inclusive.

However, employees who were able to work remotely reported that it made them happier and more motivated in their jobs, Cisco said.

Globally, hybrid work is the most preferred model across all ages, with about 70 per cent of Generation Z, millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers all preferring the flexibility it offered. Those who want a fully remote set-up are a distant second at about 20 per cent.

The UAE is also among the countries where employees are least in favour of fully remote work, with 9.7 per cent agreeing that this was their preferred way of working. Only 9.5 per cent of respondents in the Netherlands want to work fully remote, while in China it is 10 per cent.

Employees in the Philippines were most in favour of full-time remote work at almost 38 per cent, followed by Canada on 35 per cent and South Africa at 33.5 per cent.

Meanwhile, the survey found that more 76.3 per cent of people globally had been able to save money over the past year thanks to hybrid work, with average savings totalling $153.54 per week, or $8,000 a year.

Savings accounted for a 14.5 per cent increase in disposable income on average, with 80 per cent seeing an increase in their disposable income of at least 5 per cent, it added.

“A good proportion of the savings have come because of reduced expenditure on key items,” Cisco said.

“A sizeable 86.6 per cent ranked savings on fuel and/or commuting among their top three areas for savings, followed by decreasing spending on food and entertainment at 74 per cent.”

Updated: May 25, 2022, 5:11 AM