By Jiselle Rose
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted every sector and industry. To avoid going under, many organizations and businesses had to innovate their operations and the way their employees worked. Working remotely has now become the new normal, as most offices and headquarters remain closed due to the virus. This working arrangement has also brought unprecedented and dramatic changes to the operations of many businesses and organizations across the Middle East and Africa.
In the region, many startups have already been employing remote teams for their technical and backend operations. Indeed, a Scene Arabia report notes that startups and SMEs have been the main driver for job creation in the GCC region, as they continue to accept remote workers from countries like Jordan, India, and Egypt. In these places, there’s an abundance of accessible talent that makes them appealing to up and coming companies.
Well-established organizations had no choice but to quickly adapt to the pandemic, too. In a previous post, we’ve talked about how the pandemic has triggered an e-commerce boom in sub-Saharan Africa as digital solutions were quickly deployed to keep companies afloat. Thankfully, bigger companies are already familiar with the work from home structures, so all they needed to do was utilize remote working programs and apps to let their employees continue working safely.
At the start of the pandemic, many workers were enthusiastic at the chance of being able to work from home and were ready to say goodbye to their office cubicles. In fact, a survey by research firm Davies Hickman Partners reports that people from the UAE were particularly happy with the remote working arrangement, and at least 64% said that the option to work from home has brought them happiness.
Managers in the Middle East are more likely to favor traditional working settings and tend to be more office-centric. However, a Bayt.com survey points out that 30% of remote workers across the MENA region have seen an increase in their productivity, so business owners and managers shouldn’t have that much of a problem with this non-traditional working arrangement.
Of course, working from home still has many pitfalls that both employers and employees need to address. For one, working from home allows for flexible working hours, which can easily blur the lines between work and home life. Because of this, writer James Gonzales advises that remote workers should still create a structure for their workday in order to avoid burnout and stress. In addition, people who work from home should carve out a space in their home that’s conducive for working, so they won’t be easily distracted by their roommates, partner, children, or pets. Lastly, managers of remote teams also need to expertly use popular remote working tools such as Zoom and Slack, as well as constantly communicate with teams to keep everyone in line.
Without a doubt, remote working structures have helped organizations across all industries withstand the dire economic consequences of the pandemic. However, many experts still think that this working arrangement is not going to become the new normal. There’s a lot that goes into making remote working arrangements effective for businesses and companies, and it needs managers to step up and create clear guidelines, clearly define KPIs, and be more proactive in handling their team members. If done right, working from home can be sustainable for an extended period of time, but companies still need to constantly find ways to optimize this working arrangement if they want to take better care of their workers and recover from pandemic losses.