Sunday 03, June 2018 by Jessica Combes

Majority of UAE workforce skips office to work elsewhere


Flexible working arrangements are no longer just for start-ups as the greater UAE business sector is learning

More than half of UAE employees work remotely every week, and over 50 per cent do so for at least half of the week, heralding a major reassessment of corporate real estate, according to new study by International Workplace Group (IWG), the parent group of leading workspace companies including Regus.

The UAE study was part of a comprehensive global study based on the insights of over 18,000 business people across 96 companies. It found that every week 60 per cent of the UAE employees are working at least one day a week somewhere other than the office. More than half (52 per cent) work remotely for half of the week or more, whilst one in 10 (10 per cent) people work outside of their company’s main office location five times a week.

Globally, the results reflected a similar trend in the workforce with every week 70 per cent of employees are working at least one day a week somewhere other than the office. According to the study, the emergence of this mobile workforce has been driven by technological change, globalisation and changes in employee expectations.

“People from Seattle to Singapore, London to Lagos no longer need to spend so much time in a particular office. We are entering the era of the mobile workforce and it is hugely exciting. Not just for individual employees, but for businesses too. This is a huge shift in the workspace landscape globally, and businesses are now looking closely at what this means for their corporate real estate portfolios,” said Mark Dixon, founder and CEO of IWG.

The study by IWG also found that UAE businesses recognised that offering flexible working strategies to their employees provided them with significant benefits:

  • Business growth (91 per cent - two per cent above the global average)
  • Competitiveness (97 per cent - 10 per cent above the global average)
  • Productivity (85 per cent – three per cent above the global average)
  • Attracting and retaining top talent (84 per cent – four per cent above the global average)
  • Profit maximisation (91 per cent - eight per cent above the global average)

For generations, the world has understood office-based work to involve a fixed location and a nine-to-five schedule. But an unprecedented number of businesses are now adopting a very different working model, which produces benefits for them and their workers.

The IWG survey found that flexible working not only reduces commuting time, but enhances productivity, staff retention, job satisfaction and even creativity. This is in addition to the financial and strategic advantages that it brings for businesses.

The move to flexible workspaces reflects the changing demands and expectations of the workforce. 84 per cent of those surveyed in the UAE agree that flexible working helps them retain top talent whilst 65 per cent are now offering this to help them recruit. Almost half (44 per cent) agreed that offering flexible working improves job satisfaction, demonstrating the need for businesses to provide working environments suited to today’s employees to maintain a first-class workforce.

The benefits UAE businesses are experiencing are clear: a resounding 86 per cent said that flexible workspaces enable employees to be more productive while on the move.

The survey showed also that flexible working and the use of shared workspaces are no longer the preserve of start-ups. The world’s most successful businesses, including varied companies such as Etihad Airways, Diesel, GSK, Mastercard, Microsoft, Oracle and Uber, are already adopting a flexible workspace approach.

Dixon added that changes in technology and digitalisation have led to a growing use of on-demand services generally in business, with organisations of all sizes wanting to increasingly outsource non-core activities. “Flexible working, supported by a professional on-demand workspace network, is now being discussed by senior leaders across functions in companies including risk management, business development, human resources, marketing and strategy.”

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