Covid-19 will leave lasting impact on UAE workplaces
Businesses across the UAE will need to examine and re-evaluate their concept of workplaces, especially given the lasting impact that will be left by Covid-19, experts said.
"Work practices across businesses around the world have been disrupted, more or less overnight, by an unexpected circumstance. This offers a unique opportunity for organisations to re-calibrate working practices that serve as the cultural foundations of long-term organisational success," said Abhishek Sharma, partner, Public Sector at Oliver Wyman Middle East.
However, Sharma was quick to note that this is a fast-narrowing window of opportunity. "Some parts of the world are already beginning to emerge from their lockdown period. If this opportunity is not seized now, old practices and routines will quickly reassert themselves, and this once-in-a-lifetime chance to effectively drive large-scale improvements in working practices will have slipped away."
According to a recent report by Oliver Wyman, there are five areas of working life that have been disrupted by Covid-19, which organisations will need to examine and promote in the coming years. These include moving to virtual forms of communication; restructuring business meetings; enforcing hygiene compliance in professional settings; ensuring employee wellbeing, and displacing physical cash with digital alternatives.
One of the biggest shifts has revolved around communications and meetings, which has accelerated the adoption of remote working software.
Sam Tayan, managing director at Zoom in the Gulf region, spoke about the growth of the platform in the months of the Covid-19 lockdown, and how it will change the future of remote working.
"The coronavirus outbreak has transformed many organisations into fully remote operations almost overnight," he said. "The pandemic has introduced rapid and dramatic shifts in how people work; also changing habits and opening new opportunities for the work environment. Globally, the usage of Zoom has ballooned overnight - far surpassing what we expected when we first announced our desire to help in late February."
This growth includes over 100,000 schools across 25 countries, which switched to helping students continue their education remotely. As of the end of December last year, the maximum number of daily meeting participants, both free and paid, conducted on Zoom was approximately 10 million.
"In March this year, we reached more than 200 million daily meeting participants, both free and paid," Tayan revealed. "As of April this year, we reached more than 300 million daily meeting participants, both free and paid. That is a 50 per cent increase this month, from March to April. Recent figures for April this year also reveal that free user sign-up growth in the UAE increased 105 times as compared to January figures."
Asked if the region will we see a greater investment in technologies that help businesses work remotely, Tayan said: "We are very optimistic about the growth potential in the Middle East and have begun investments in the region with our headcount commitment. Going forward, we are committed to infrastructure, marketing, and services investment with the continued cooperation of the government."
Additionally, he also noted that as the use of video conferencing tools increase, user privacy and security concerns become top of mind for many organisations.
"In our commitment to security and willingness to progress with intelligent acquisition, we have acquired Keybase, a secure messaging and file-sharing service, which will further strengthen the security of our video communications platform," Tayan said. "We also launched Zoom for Home, to support business professionals working remotely. Also, as part of our 90-day plan announced on April 1, we are doubling down on our commitment to security and we are proactively working to better identify, address, and fix issues."
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