Dubai Future Foundation has launched the first issue from a series of reports to tackle the different challenges that organizations in Dubai and the world will face once the COVID-19 global outbreak subsides. The series comes at crucial time where public and private sector organizations need to be well-prepared for future opportunities and challenges.
Titled “Life After COVID-19: Workspaces”, the first report, launched today, looks into the future of work post the novel virus, the notion of social distancing and what regulatory implications and work models arise from working remotely. The report further discusses the impact of this on productivity, rental and travel costs and employees’ carbon footprint. Through highlighting the current situation, potential opportunities and both short and long term recommendations, the report seeks to support the UAE, along with the rest of the world in their efforts to address the challenges presented by this pandemic.
Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation said, “The launch of these reports comes as part of the Foundation’s efforts to better navigate and anticipate the future of the vital sectors in Dubai and the UAE in light of the current global health challenges, as well as seeks to provide recommendations and future outlooks to mitigate and address these challenges.”
His Excellency added: “The outputs of this report will be used to draw a clearer outlook of Dubai’s future in the coming period and deep dives in specific on the future of work, looking into the necessary policies and regulations that needs to be implemented to ensure business continuity, and propose new work models that can potentially be exported globally.
The inaugural report focuses on the growing trend of working remotely – it is set to be the new norm for the foreseeable future, with employers developing more flexible ways to conduct work. This will lead to a more agile, human-centered, inclusive system that depends on individuals as much as the management of their companies. To meet this rapid change, key policies and processes will need to be put in place. Organizations need to have a ‘business continuity plan’ to ensure that essential tasks are carried out. Other jobs that are rarely undertaken remotely will need to be rethought, with a view to employees using their skills and knowledge for other forms of work.
Changes Imposed by the Current Challenges
Abdulaziz AlJaziri, Deputy CEO and COO of Dubai Future Foundation pointed out, “that the shift imposed by the current changes towards working remotely raises many questions on the meaning and nature of work, one of which is whether there is an actual need of a physical work space, the nature of employee relationships, how will HR police adapt whilst ensuring employees’ productivity and happiness and finally the potential widespread of events and seminars going digital”
AlJaziri added: “The Dubai Future foundation is working on hosting virtual dialogues discussing what the future holds post COVID-19, providing an opportunity for all members of society as well as experts to share their views, ideas and recommendations”
The spread of “Remote Work” and Global Statistics
Working remotely has typically been common in certain sectors, such as IT, marketing, app development and some forms of retail. It has led to increased productivity, virtual collaboration, and for some companies, lower costs, including office rental, travel and events. Companies that have adopted remote working policies have also been able to reduce their carbon footprint, with employees commuting less; therefore, using less energy.
Working remotely has been proven to be a well-suited solution to certain forms of activity such as ‘deep work’, where intensive research and thinking is required. A study done by Global Workplace Analytics found that remote workers have grown by 140 percent since 2005. Owl Labs, a leader in immersive video conferencing technology, reported that 16 percent of global companies are exclusively hiring for remote job opportunities. By 2028, a study by UpWork, a work-from-home platform, estimates 73 percent of all department will have remote workers. The report states remote working is appropriate for certain types of businesses, the most important of which time-consuming research and thinking.
Recommendations to Keep Abreast with the Changes
In the short term, the reports finds that HR policies will need to adapt to the current situation, focusing on employee happiness and productivity. In the longer term, employers will need to consider whether working remotely may be beneficial for employees, and whether jobs can be automated or digitized to allow for more multi-disciplinary work.
With a clear directive from the government, public entities, private companies and all educational bodies in the UAE have begun working remotely. Given the current situation, flexible working has opened wider questions around the nature of work, including that of whether a permanent office workspace is actually necessary.
At a time of global uncertainty, many are questioning how these new changes will affect their careers, and how they will interact with their peers. They are curious to know how remote working will affect their relationships with their employers and how it will affect the visa process that is already in place. They wonder about how productivity is measured and whether people can continue to find value in their work if much of it becomes digital.
An Outlook on the Future of Work and Employment
Additionally, the report introduces several short and long-term recommendations. On the short-term recommendation (during the COVID-19 outbreak), is to introduce a well-being model, such as happiness indices and activities to promote social interaction. These could take the form of digital community events and will become prevalent in HR policies to ensure employees remain mentally healthy while working from home. Productivity will be measured through outputs rather than inputs, with employees managing their own time, instead of being subject to mechanisms that monitor hours or visibility.
In the long-term, working remotely may become an integral part of business models post-COVID-19 with entities maintaining a remote working structure, except for meetings that must be held face-to-face. Large events, seminars and workshops will go digital, with virtual and augmented reality used to create ‘real-life’ inclusive experiences. With automation increasing rapidly, employees will need to diversify their skills or use their existing skills for other jobs. Creativity will increase as traditional jobs are replaced. As well-being workplace models are implemented, they will need to be designed to achieve and maintain happiness at work and avoid mental health issues.