UAE employees prefer hybrid working

UAE employees prefer the hybrid working model and the majority of organizations in the country are prepared to shift to this new practice, according to the latest Cisco Global Hybrid Work Study.

The study polled 1,050 full-time employees across the UAE and discovered almost 90 percent want to work either in a hybrid or fully remote working model in the future. According to the respondents, 83 percent of companies are supportive of hybrid work practices with more than 28 percent saying their companies are “fully prepared” and 43 percent “prepared” for the hybrid work future.

The findings are part of the Cisco Global Hybrid Work Study, an extensive report which – among others – examined five key areas of preparedness for hybrid work, including company culture; technology; employee support; HR policy and processes; and cybersecurity and data privacy.

Commenting on the study, Reem Asaad, Vice President, Cisco Middle East and Africa, said: “Employees have experienced the benefits of hybrid work firsthand and many have expectations for it to continue. While most organizations in the UAE recognize the importance of flexible working, there remain opportunities for further improvement. A successful, future ready hybrid model must, in equal measure, deliver secure connectivity from anywhere, while also maintaining trust, wellbeing and unity among highly distributed teams.”

Company Culture, HR Policy and Processes
An aspect that is often forgotten as companies pursue digitization and hybrid work is the importance of company culture. The survey found that most respondents believe their employers are well placed in this regard, with just over 31 percent “very prepared” and 42 percent “prepared” for a hybrid work culture. The findings of the report reveal most UAE companies have taken positive steps to help employees ease into hybrid working practices but more needs to be done. Of those polled, 70 percent said their company needs to rethink its culture and mindset to make hybrid work truly inclusive. Overall, employees who were able to work remotely reported it made them happier and more motivated in their jobs.

As a result, 61 percent said they would be less likely to look for a new role due to this flexible work approach. Interestingly, there was a generational split with Gen Z (aged 18 to 24) and Gen X (aged 40 to 54) in terms of their company’s cultural readiness for hybrid work. 41 percent of Gen Z respondents felt their employer was “very prepared”, an opinion that is shared only by 27 percent of Gen X employees.

Hybrid work requires a holistic approach, and this is where HR policy and processes can help create the right environment. The poll found that 65 percent of employees in the UAE wanted greater flexibility in defining work hours, with 56 percent saying there needed to be more emphasis on employee wellness and work-life balance. Meanwhile, 68 percent of those questioned said their manager trusted them to be productive when working remotely, while 61 percent saying they could trust colleagues to work away from the office.

Hybrid working also adds some difficulties, as 62 percent of employees said remote workers would have challenges to fully engage with their companies and colleagues, drawing attention to the importance of supporting employees in this transition.

Cybersecurity and Data Privacy
As more people and businesses adopt hybrid work practices, the need to protect sensitive data and information is more important than ever. Employees agree: almost 73 percent of those questioned said it was critical for making the hybrid work practice safe. Progress has been made on this front, with 68 percent in the UAE believing their organization has the right cybersecurity capabilities and protocols in place. In fact, two-thirds of those polled said all employees across their company understand the cyber risks related to remote work.

Underlying the important role technology plays in hybrid work, 77 percent believe networking infrastructure is essential for a seamless experience for all employees, irrespective of their work location. Encouragingly, 71 percent of respondents said their company currently had the required networking infrastructure in place. This sentiment was reflected in 30 percent of employees saying their company was technologically “very prepared” and 47 percent replying that their employer was “prepared” in this regard.

Hybrid work is an approach that designs the work experience around and for the worker, wherever they are. It supports a blend of in-office and remote workers who may work at all levels in the organization. They might work onsite or offsite, with many employees switching between those environments regularly, depending on their needs. Flexibility to work offsite or onsite, and how often, depends on the organization and the nature of the employee’s work and their job responsibilities. Hybrid work helps equip people to choose where and how they will work, collaborating safely and securely with others and be productive. Advanced technologies, like automation and artificial intelligence (AI), help to deliver new and more intelligent work experiences that employees can engage in fully. Hybrid work also promotes inclusiveness, engagement, and wellbeing for all employees.