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Work Life Balance

“Unstoppable.” When advocates of remote working say the transition away from full-time office work cannot be stemmed, well that’s one thing, when the organisers of a major office interior design conference say it, well that’s entirely another level.

Workspace is the region’s only trade devoted to commercial design, attracting thousands of companies and professionals to examine the changing needs of employers when it comes to their physical space.

Now, the organisers of the conference – which returns to Dubai on May 23 to 25 – have authored a white paper ‘Insight into the ever-changing workplace environment’.

For an event aimed at office fit out companies, architects, commercial real estate stakeholders, tech providers, office furniture and manufacturers, the authors could be forgiven for dialing up the desire of some C-suite’s to return full time to our desks, whether with or without Perspex separators.

Instead, the white paper’s authors now say that flexibility in now a permanent part of the workspace landscape, and that management cultures need to adapt to grasp the opportunity, rather than be punished by their lack of evolution.

This year, mentl’s founder Scott Armstrong has joined the Workspace conference’s advisory board to explore how physical workspaces can be used to promote wellbeing and employee mental health.

“More than two years on, the transition from full-time in-person to partial remote interaction seems unstoppable, with workplaces, educational institutions, health professionals, business partners, families and individuals all dependent, to varying degrees, on communication applications,” argues the report.

“In the current economy, being competitive and establishing a resilient workforce necessitates a commitment to inclusivity, which must be reflected in all hybrid work tools, processes, and solutions. 

“It’s the only way to ensure that every employee is heard, connected and prepared to succeed.”

The white paper quoted Microsoft research showed that business leaders in the Middle East and Africa need to define the office’s purpose in their hybrid work strategy: Before March 2020, work was centred around the office space. 

Very few companies, it said, were pioneering flexible work strategies and many of us were accustomed to commuting to the office five days a week. This has, of course, been turned on its head and we are dealing with questions around the purpose of the office in today’s modern workplace.

“Now it’s the job of every leader to balance employee interests with the success of the organisation, aligning everyone around the most impactful work. 48 percent of employees and 53 percent of managers report that they’re already burned out at work, so prioritization must go beyond simply reordering an overflowing to-do list. Leaders need to create clarity and purpose for their people, aligning work with the company mission and team goals.”

One size doesn’t fit all

The white paper discussed how, in a move for balance, many companies have tried policies bringing people back three days per week with two remote days (3-2), or two office days and three remote days (2-3). Google was among the high-profile companies who embraced 3-2 working week , bringing workers back in April.

Although some workers are happy to spend two or three days in the office – particularly those who are feeling isolated amid remote work – these set-ups are not wholly going well across the board, said the report’s author.  Even as companies make plans for when workers are coming back, there’s really no one-size-fits all model across a business.

“Hybrid work has different emotional impacts: what an ideal work set-up looks like for one worker couldn’t be a worse fit for another – and it’s virtually impossible to design a policy that accounts for every situation.”

Burning out

White paper again quoted the Microsoft 2022 Work Trend Index, a study of more than 31,000 people in 31 countries, which examined the extraordinary workforce disruption. The tech giant’s report found that 43 percent of the workforce is considering leaving their jobs in the coming year.

One of the biggest reasons why people are leaving?  It’s not pay, the study claims. It’s unsustainable workloads. The most compelling data was the increase in time spent “collaborating.”

For example, between February 2020 & February 2022, weekly Teams meetings increased by a whopping 252 percent. And 6 billion more emails were sent. A Pew Research study found similar trends.

Also, 57 percent of workers who quit a job in 2021 said feeling disrespected at work was the reason they left, and 45 percent said lack of flexibility to choose when they put in their hours were reasons why they quit. Nearly half said childcare issues were a reason they left a job (48% among those with a child younger than 18 in the household).

Download the full report here…

“There’s no turning back from the workplace changes brought about by the Great Resignation, according to the expert who coined the term. Organisational psychologist Anthony Klotz predicted in May 2021 that the Covid-19 pandemic would lead to pent-up resignations. Since that time, millions have quit their jobs.

“Many employers have adapted to meet workers’ needs, albeit slowly in some cases. They are now addressing employee wellness, including mental and financial health, and are offering remote work opportunities.”

Retaining talent

The Workspace white paper called out culture, writing that the past two years had showed that culture will stand or fall with managers. But many managers, the report wrote, feel stuck between leadership and new employee expectations, and they feel powerless to drive change for their team.

Over half of managers (54 percent) feel leadership at their company is out of touch with employee expectations. And 74 percent say they don’t have the influence or resources they need to make changes on behalf of their team. The source of this tension is clear as business leaders seek a return to what once was.

“As the world shifts more fully into hybrid work, the biggest opportunity for business leaders is to reimagine the role of the office and create clarity around why, when, and how often teams should gather in person. Making the office work for all employees will take radical intentionality.”

Download the full report here…

Hybrid and Remote Working trends

•   Great resignation

•   #quitfluencer (an employee who quits and inspires others to lead)

•   Great reshuffle

•   Mental health, flexibility, work-life balance, communication (employer’s need)

•   Digital wellness

•   Smart office, hybrid office and ‘Infinite Office’

•   Resimercial

•   Sustainable office

The Workspace conference takes place on 23 – 25 May 202310:00 – 18:00 daily, at the Dubai World Trade Centre. To learn more click here.