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Wed 26 Feb 2020 12:12 PM

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Making work, work for you in the Middle East

It makes both economic and business sense to ensure flexible working is a 'table stake' when it comes to working, writes Teri O'Donnell, founding partner & chair of Manara Global

Making work, work for you in the Middle East

Teri O’Donnell is Founding Partner & Chair of Manara Global and Board member of Global Women in PR MENA.

The importance of flexible working is increasingly becoming one of the key drivers for people in Middle East with people even willing to switch jobs to an employer that offers it.

This was driven home to me in the latest findings from the Global Women in PR and Censuswide survey of over 200 communications professionals from across the region, with 84% of people stating that they would consider changing jobs if a potential employer offered better flexible working options.

Having worked in the communications industry for over 20 years in New Zealand, London, New York, and the UAE, and the fact that I am a woman, I have for the most part, experienced both equality and flexibility in the work place, albeit not everyone has been as fortunate as I have.

With this in mind, a year ago, I was delighted to become a founding board member of Global Women in PR MENA – an exciting opportunity to meet like-minded women and get under the skin of what life as a senior and ‘global’ communications leader in this region is faced with. 

One of our first activities was to develop a better understanding of the challenges women working in the region currently experiencing. For this reason, it was why the GWPR MENA Board commissioned the survey which overwhelmingly found the region is ripe for a people transformation to make work mutually beneficial for both the employer and the employee.

Remote working

With only 43 percent of people in our survey reporting that their current employer enables remote working options, and only 30 percent stating that they can avail flexible start and finish times, there is clearly more to be done to unleash the potential of the human capital in the workplace.

We know that employees who have a high degree of happiness in the workplace along with a sense of empowerment are both more loyal to their role and employer and more productive. The interesting take out here is that 75 percent of respondents in the survey believe that flexibility increases return on investment and productivity whilst two-thirds believe that good talent is lost due to lack of flexible working.

In looking at these findings, it makes both economic and business sense to ensure flexible working is a ‘table stake’ when it comes to working in this new decade we have entered into.  Therefore, business leaders not providing this flexibility where they can are ‘missing a trick’ when it comes to their bottom line and improved productivity, which could be a game-changer advantage for adopters of flexible working.

Disconnect

So, the smart question was to ask why. In further exploration what became evident is that there is a disconnect in trust between the employer and employee emerging as the central theme slowing down proliferation of flexibility. Respondents who are not in leadership roles, believed the main barrier for leadership in offering flexible working is trusting employees (67 percent).

Conversely, those in leadership positions attributed only 41 percent to lack of trust, instead indicating their key barriers as reduced face-to-face time and accountability of employees. 83 percent of all respondents stated they would feel trusted to get on with their job by their employer if they were to have flexible working, and 17% of respondents do not feel trusted by their employer at all when it comes to flexible working.

This lack of trust is disheartening – both with companies and individuals creating and living ‘bad behaviours’ that make it harder for everyone else to just get on and get the job done.

So, what this is telling us is that we have a job to do to build, grow and maintain trust between employees and employers and put a greater emphasis on delivering outputs rather than focus on rigid hours in the working week.

We all have to go to work, or most of us do. In our fast paced lives and with greater productivity enabled through technology, we should be reshaping the workplace wherever possible to work more flexibility for the employer and the employee and thereby generating greater productivity, enhanced employee wellbeing and make the UAE become the beacon for the future workplace of tomorrow, today.

Teri O’Donnell is founding partner & chair of Manara Global and board member of Global Women in PR MENA