Work from home during emergencies: UAE employees hope for flexibility 1 month after storm

Since April 16, individuals held multiple meetings with employers, suggesting work-from-home options during challenging situations

by

Waad Barakat

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Cars drive in a flooded street following heavy rains in Dubai on April 17, 2024. Photo: AFP
Cars drive in a flooded street following heavy rains in Dubai on April 17, 2024. Photo: AFP

Published: Thu 16 May 2024, 7:16 PM

Last updated: Thu 16 May 2024, 9:51 PM

One month has passed since the UAE experienced an unprecedented rainfall. On April 16, certain employers insisted their employees to commute to work, despite stormy condition since April 15 night.

Employees waded through knee-deep water or navigated submerged roads to reach their offices. The roadblocks forced many to seek shelter at metro stations, homes of Good Samaritan or workplaces.


Since then, they have held multiple meetings with their bosses, suggesting work-from-home options during emergencies. Some meetings were productive, while others were not.

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During unstable weather conditions, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) had asked private sector companies to priorities employees' safety.

"It was a very frustrating time; everyone struggled, and we didn't get any support, and employers declined every suggestion we would make," shared one employee who did not wish to be named.

"I vividly remember how I tried to get to work that day. Only to find my car damaged by floodwaters. It was heartbreaking. Eventually, I had no choice but to seek shelter at a friend's house because I couldn't even reach my own."

Thereafter, in a meeting he had with his boss, she raised concerns about the lack of understanding and support.

"Some people are worried that in the event of another emergency, the work environment may encounter a lack of understanding, potentially resulting in us having to operate under challenging circumstances," he remarked.

However, some took matters into their own hands and decided to stay home on April 16. Putting his safety first, Mohamed Tariq, a Palestinian residing in Al Ain, was concerned about dangerous road conditions and leaks in his house and decided to work from home (WFH).

He received a warning from his manager. But Mohamed engaged in an open conversation, communicating his difficulties and reasons for his decision to WFH. "At first, I doubted whether I had made the correct decision. However, when more people came forward having taken same actions and receiving similar warnings, it sparked a conversation about what we need to do if we find ourselves compelled to stay home during an emergency," he revealed.

The initial sense of isolation Mohamed felt, ebbed away when he realised that others faced similar challenges. "(Manager's reaction) made me question whether I had made a reckless decision and jeopardised my job, but seeing others with similar experiences helped me feel validated," Mohamed explained.

Mohamed Tariq
Mohamed Tariq

"The open conversation allowed us to discuss the need for clear guidelines on emergencies and WFH arrangements. It shouldn't be viewed as an excuse to avoid work but as a necessary measure to ensure our safety and productivity,” Mohamed added

Syrian expat Yussra Bassem, a mother of three who works in Abu Dhabi as a lawyer, shared a different experience. After the April 16 heavy rains, her firm implemented a policy and employees were instructed to work remotely. This policy will be in place whenever employees face challenging situations when reaching the office.

Yussra Bassem
Yussra Bassem

"Everyone really appreciated the firm for this move because it was clear that our safety mattered, and these conversations actually made us value the place more," she said.

As a working mother, she faced the added challenge of ensuring the safety and well-being of her children during floods. The remote work arrangement allowed her to prioritise her family's needs while fulfilling her professional responsibilities.

"Being able to work from home during the floods allowed me to be there for my children and ensure their safety. It eased my worries and made me feel supported by my employer," she added.

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