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Coronavirus

Two in three employees in Saudi, UAE ‘out of practice’ for office life: Survey

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As COVID-19 restrictions ease globally, returning to the workplace in many parts of the world is imminent but most employees in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia feel ”out of practice” about heading back to office life, a new survey has found.

The LinkedIn MENA Future of Work survey quizzed 1,000 workers across the two GCC countries about their attitudes to work following the pandemic.

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It found that, having worked remotely for more than a year and half, some employers and employees are rethinking not just how they work, but why they work.

The survey revealed that more than 50 percent of employees surveyed have returned to work. However, more than 40 percent are looking for a flexible schedule and ability to work from home part-time, highlighting a new hybrid way of working many have grown accustomed to.

A significant 20 percent of those surveyed are looking for new jobs that offer remote working and almost 15 percent have quit as a result of being asked to return to the office full time.

When asked by LinkedIn, almost 70 percent of all employees stated they felt “out of practice” when it came to office life.

Over 35 percent were no longer used to socializing in the workplace and spending all day with other people.

A third of the respondents also said that small habits, such as keeping their workspace tidy and wearing office appropriate clothing, were lost given the new routine created by the pandemic.

Ali Matar, head of LinkedIn MENA and emerging markets said: “This is a time of significant adjustment for both employees and businesses.”

“At LinkedIn, we realized that to better help organizations plan their return-to-office strategies, it’s important to understand how employees in the region feel about the future of work.”

“It is clear that soft skills have suffered after an extended period of employees staying apart, and especially for young professionals who haven’t had enough time to build up social skills.”

This is a trend being seen among conversations unfolding on LinkedIn, said Matar.

“Our members are experiencing the biggest workplace change in a generation and it’s important we help employees find their voice in their new world of work, across industries and locations.”

Impact on professional learning

The new research also brought light to the fact that almost 65 percent of younger professionals aged 16-24 believe their professional learning was severely impacted by the pandemic.

Commenting on the impact of WFH on the youngest generation, Matar said: “We are highlighting the need of the hour: organizations need to invest in not just remote working capabilities but also remote learning, especially during the formative years of a young professional’s career.”

The ‘WFH stigma’

Although almost 40 percent of employees stated they prefer WFH to avoid an unnecessary commute to the office, almost 80 percent believe there is a stigma associated with working from home and many (65 percent) confirmed they worry that not being seen in the office will negatively impact their career progression, as they have less facetime with the boss and it’s harder to learn from colleagues.

Results suggest employees working from home for the past year felt safe, happier and were able to spend more time with their family, a key driver in championing a new model of work. However, many also felt isolated, overwhelmed, and burnt out.

Matar said: “These results indicate the need for a multi-faceted policy that takes into account the diverse needs of employees. For example, new joiners at a company might need to do onboarding at the office as part of their training and to capture the whole experience, while employees who have been at the company for longer can benefit from more flexibility.”

Recognizing that each employer’s need is unique, LinkedIn has recently announced a new flexible work policy.

The policy moves away from a one-size-fits-all global policy of spending 50 percent of time in the office (when it’s safe to fully reopen). LinkedIn’s approach includes both hybrid and remote roles, recognizing the right formula for how we work best will differ person by person and team by team.

Read more:

Return to ‘normal’ after COVID-19 brings ‘re-entry anxiety’ for UAE workers: Experts

Mental Health Awareness Month: COVID-19 impact on public ‘profound,’ say UAE docs

Abu Dhabi allows 100 pct of govt workers to return to offices from Sept. 5