'We need flexibility without fear': 87% of UAE residents want remote work option for working mothers

Khaleej Times asked over 3,100 people about whether UAE firms should allow all women with young children to work from home full-time


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Fri 2 Feb 2024, 7:11 PM

Last updated: Fri 2 Feb 2024, 10:20 PM

When Dubai resident Muriel D’Sa went back to work after her 45 days of maternity leave, it was one of the hardest things she had ever done. She suffered from sleep deprivation, eating disorders and postpartum depression.

“I remember one of my colleagues asking me how my ‘break’ was, and I was bewildered,” she said. “It is tough to get back into the force in 45 days. You have to give your 100 per cent when you’re battling sleep deprivation, eating disorders, postpartum depression and are adjusting to a newborn's schedule. Also, the new mom has to go that extra mile to prove her worth back in the organisation. We want flexibility without fear of being replaced by someone else.”

Muriel D’Sa
Muriel D’Sa

Muriel’s views come as a Federal National Council (FNC) member Maryam Majid bin Thaniah has proposed an option to allow working mothers with children aged under 10, to have flexible working hours. In her proposal to Minister of State for Government Development and the Future, Ohood bint Khalfan Al Roumi, she has proposed a system where mothers could work in office in the first half of the day and remotely from home in the second.

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Khaleej Times asked over 3,100 people about whether UAE firms should allow all women with young children to work from home full-time. An overwhelming 87 per cent voted in favour of it with only 462 people saying it would be impractical for employers.

Supporting policies

For April Kearns, going back to work after having kids was a difficult decision. “I went back to work at my previous company after four months of having my second child,” she said. “However, this was too soon. I ended up staying six months and burning out, so I resigned in order to take some time out with my family and join a company where I could work part-time and guarantee that I wouldn’t be called all the time out of hours.”

April Kearns
April Kearns

That is when she joined TishTash agency as the Director of People and Culture. “Now, I work 9am to 1pm. I get to collect my kids from school and nursery and get some time with them. And if I want to, I can take on small freelance projects when I feel I have the capacity,” she said. “Giving working mothers the option to work remotely on a full time basis is progressive and will absolutely enable employers to retain their female workforce at the mid to senior levels, ultimately closing the gender gap at the senior level.”

According to her, the agency has been operating the hybrid half day from home for working mothers for years, and it has proven to be a great success, with consistency in productivity and business results.

Welcome move

For mom-of-two Diellen Romualdo, the news brought a lot of hope. The Brazilian expat has been a stay-at-home-mom, partly because of the demands of being a mother. “I think it is an awesome opportunity for women,” she said. “They will be able to earn income without compromising on the wellbeing of their family. It is important for a mother to be with the kids in the early years of their life. That is one of the reasons why a lot of women leave the workforce. With such a flexible policy, many companies will also be able to retain their talents.”

Diellen Romualdo
Diellen Romualdo

She did admit that some mothers might find it challenging. “When my husband was working from home, sometimes it was a little difficult handling the kids and being in meetings,” she said. “So the mothers will have to find a routine to work with but I think that is something they can manage with a little bit of practice. If the UAE can implement this, I think it will be a huge thing.”

However, such policies will depend on the role that prospective mothers do, according to HR professional Mohammed Anees Khalid. “If the person is in a customer-facing role like a receptionist or a sales professional or a cabin crew, then they cannot work remotely,” he said. “Also, it will depend on the kind of arrangement that the employee can reach with their manager. Some roles require an office presence while others do not.”

The global IT company that he works for has had remote working arrangements for several years now. “We have never had an issue with any of our remote working staff,“ he said. “However, one of the main issues people face with not coming into work is that they are not able to build any kind of connections or relationships with their colleagues that help do their job better. That could be challenging in the long run.”


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