Mouna Ramdani, a 25-year-old Briton in Dubai, left her social media manager job of six months with a UAE company in February this year because she felt she was underpaid and not valued enough.
“I felt burnt out and quit even though I did not have another job lined up,” says Ms Ramdani, who’s been in the UAE for more than a year.
“Right after I quit, I was scared and overwhelmed because my rental cheque was coming up. I started to freelance in marketing a month after I quit the job and am in a better position now financially than I if I had a regular job.”
Ms Ramdani belongs to a group of individuals who quit their jobs during the Great Resignation trend.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, employees have been leaving their jobs at much higher rates than normal to seek a better work-life balance and more flexibility with their jobs.
In August, a survey by UAE jobs portal Bayt.com and market research company YouGov found that 63 per cent of respondents would prefer to be self-employed or have their own business if given the choice.
Respondents to the survey cited a better work-life balance, personal fulfilment, the ability to give back to the community and a higher income as the top reasons for wanting to start a business in the UAE.
Ms Ramdani, who paid for a freelance visa, says her quality of life changed after quitting her job as she now lives life on her terms and mostly works remotely.
“I have good work-life balance and work when I want to,” she says.
“It’s much more flexible and I can work from home without feeling guilty. My relationship with my fiance has also flourished.”
Watch: Some of the stats behind the UAE's hiring boom
After experiencing feelings of panic on quitting the job, Ms Ramdani decided to cut back on travel and move to a cheaper property in Dubai. However, she then decided not to move as she was earning a good income from her freelance projects.
“I believe the Great Resignation trend is just starting in the UAE and will continue in 2023,” says Waleed Anwar, managing director of Dubai-based recruitment company Upfront HR.
“This is because there is still a backlog of employees who wanted to change or resign from their positions in the past two years, but held back due to market uncertainty. However, we are seeing a busy job market now, with employers hiring across sectors, which will see more people moving around and taking up new jobs.”
More people with families are also re-evaluating their priorities after the Covid-19 pandemic and are now more likely to put family before a job, Mr Anwar says.
Although salaries remain the primary factor for employees accepting new jobs, people also look for companies that offer flexibility to work from home, he adds.
“Reviewing and providing a better overall compensation package is key to retaining people, but other factors such as offering remote working, flexibility at work, better employee benefits package and generally being open to change by listening to your staff and supporting them are much more likely to retain talent,” says Mr Anwar.
Meanwhile, Paula Jacobson quit her job as senior director of people and culture at a UAE beauty brand in May this year because she wanted flexibility in terms of working hours, projects she works on and her location. She worked at the company for five-and-a-half years.
“I am able to have freedom mentally. I was so absorbed in my job that I didn’t prioritise my health or my passions,” says the 40-year-old Briton.
“I have now lost 18kg, am able to do things in the daytime such as surfing, tennis and meeting people … I also travel when I want, provided I can afford it and my dogs are OK.”
Ms Jacobson, who opened a consultancy business last week, is managing her expenses with savings and her end-of-service gratuity. She also moved to a more affordable property and plans to sell her car.
“I am not in a stronger place financially and probably won’t be for a while. However, I’ve never been driven by making money. I just need enough to live the life I like and travel,” she says.
“I do panic sometimes due to the financial instability, but no regrets. I left at what I felt was a good time for me, was happy with the work I’d done, and am looking forward to making a difference in my own way.”
Similarly, Sami Said Ali, a 37-year-old Indian in the UAE, quit her media job of four years in April last year because she did not like the work culture at the organisation and wanted to become a filmmaker.
“I’ve been working since I was 17 and was accustomed to having the cushion of a monthly salary,” Ms Ali says.
“It was both terrifying and exciting to test uncharted waters, but life has changed for the better. I also manage to travel frequently and sleep better now.”
After quitting her full-time job, Ms Ali worked on a nine-month project with Expo 2020 Dubai and decided to save money by minimising her bills. She put all her possessions in storage and started living in hotels.
“The only two bills I pay are for the hotel rent and the mobile bill,” Ms Ali says.
However, she has begun to feel the pinch after losing her savings of about Dh100,000 in July. In a bizarre turn of events, she withdrew the money from her bank account and her partner accidentally threw out her wallet along with a bag of stale takeaway food.
Nevertheless, Ms Ali says she loves being part of the gig culture and does not miss a 9-to-5 job.
When considering leaving full-time employment or looking to start your own business, it is important to ensure you can still meet your monthly commitments, such as rental payments, utility bills and your grocery shopping, says Chris Keeling, chartered financial planner at The Fry Group.
Make a list of your monthly outgoings so you know exactly how much you need to earn to cover your costs, he adds. If you are considering starting a business, you should also incorporate set-up costs into your budget.
“It is also important to have savings to fall back on when transitioning from full-time employment to self-employed status,” he says.
“Make sure you have savings to bridge the gap between your last salary payment and when you expect to begin earning again. Create a business plan and be realistic with your earning expectations.”
It is recommended to have a minimum three months’ worth of salary saved in a readily accessible bank account, but it is better to have six to 12 months saved.
If you have existing assets, such as property or investments, these could be used to replace your income and cover your expenses, Mr Keeling says.
“For example, a $250,000 investment potentially returning 5 per cent each year could mean an additional income stream of $12,500 per year. However, with recent global market volatility, this is not guaranteed.”