Remote-work: A silver lining in the midst of Covid-19?

By Dr. Susan Zeidan and Issam Kassabieh

Published: Sat 16 May 2020, 1:44 PM

Last updated: Sun 17 May 2020, 5:44 AM

A lot has changed in the past few months because of the corona-virus pandemic. In a very short span of time millions of businesses closed, schools around the world closed, and even countries closed their borders and implemented different lockdown practices its citizens must abide by. In these times of uncertainty and within weeks organizations around the world were scrambling to prepare their employee for remote-work from home. 
A report by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics observed a mounting rising movement in the number of people working remotely in the U.S. The report showed that in 2017 remote work grew 7.9 per cent more than in 2016. Over the last 5 years remote work grew by 44 per cent. UPWK, a large freelancing website, published the findings of its third annual Future Workforce Report in March 2019. The report explored hiring behaviors of more than 1000 managers based in the U.S. and predicted that 73 per cent of all teams will have remote workers by 2028.
In a report published by CBRE, 84 per cent of surveyed corporations highlighted flexibility as a key concept for employees also stating, "Flexibility is a permanent feature of the future workspace landscape". While the term flexibility at our jobs may sound broad, the report focused on "location-based" flexibility and an employee's ability to work remotely, away from most offices' cubicles and closed doors. The reality is that remote working is still seen as a new trend even though it has proven quite popular over the past year close to home in Asia where Colliers' 2018 Flexible Workspace report highlighted an increasing level of emergence in the occupation of flexible workspaces (56 per cent of Asia's top 200 occupiers). Meanwhile at home in the United Arab Emirates the Covid-19 pandemic is pushing towards even faster adoption of remote working and pushing that key flexibility concept up more than just a notch. In fact, we find ourselves asking, "Why hasn't anyone thought of this a bit sooner?"
According to a report by the International Workplace Group (IWG), listed in London Stock Exchange, which surveyed 18,000 UAE-based employees across 96 companies in the UAE, 60 per cent worked remotely at least once a week while 52 per cent of those worked remotely half the week and finally 10 per cent of those did so the entire week. The real question is will this trend be sustainable post pandemic and if so then why?
Studies have shown that 75 per cent of employees favor flexible working, and 69 per cent say it encourages them to stay in a job for longer. As for corporates, of the 96 UAE-based firms those who adopted remote working offerings grew 91 per cent (2 per cent above global average) while productivity rose by 85 per cent (3 per cent above global average) with competitiveness hitting 97 per cent (10 per cent above global average).
In times of uncertainty and self-isolation, could remote-work be our silver lining?
(The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not reflect newspapers policy)

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