As fears surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic subside and the global workforce returns to normal, questions are being asked about the lessons learned from lockdown-imposed working practices, and what ‘normal’ is going to look like for employees in the future.
And if remote working practices continue, how can companies effectively manage productivity and training while ensuring the wellbeing of staff?
Companies operating in the post-pandemic market are now looking to accelerate growth, but to achieve this they need an empowered, motivated and talented team. To attract and retain staff, employers need to look at what they can offer employees.
The battle for talent is nothing new, says David Mackenzie, group managing director at Dubai-based recruitment company Mackenzie Jones Group. But job seekers’ priorities are changing.
“People are not asking about what pension they get and where the office is located,” says Mackenzie. “They are asking about what flexibility do I have, can I work from home and can I take days off for mental wellbeing.”
Research carried out by US healthcare and insurance provider Cigna indicates that many employers, despite recognising the importance of worker satisfaction, have not yet responded to this shift in requirements.
Cigna’s Covid-19 Global Impact study – engaging over 10,000 employees in various sectors across six continents to determine their wellbeing in terms of family, work, social and financial and physical health – found that one in three employees in the UAE felt that their employer does not have a full understanding of their needs and expectations, particularly in terms of mental health.
The study also showed that 50 per cent of workers today want to change jobs. Jérôme Droesch, CEO of Cigna MEA & SEA points out that, compared to results from Cigna research carried out in previous years, workforce wellbeing and stability in the region is on the decline.
To address this, companies need to engage with staff, show flexibility and, most importantly, support and manage teams that are not working in the office.
Remote working practices adopted during the pandemic lockdown demonstrated that the traditional model of office working could be significantly altered without damaging business.
In many cases, companies found that workforce productivity initially improved, and after experiencing the benefits of working from home, workers may be reluctant to return to the office environment.
The Cigna study showed that 41 per cent of office-based UAE workers are keen to work full time from home, 16 per cent want a hybrid model – a mixture of home and office – and 43 per cent want to return to the office.
It seems clear that working from home will, to some degree, continue. But despite early improvements in productivity, many companies have seen a decline in employee motivation, and they are struggling to monitor and manage their remote workforce in the longer term.
Not only that, but the ‘always-on’ culture driven by online working can increase stress levels among staff. Support and guidance are not always available at home and it is hard for managers to detect mental health issues and provide assistance.
In order to effectively implement a hybrid working model, experts agree that it will be necessary for firms to adjust recruitment strategies to identify staff that have the resilience and flexibility to work remotely, and will also need to change the skillset of their managers.
“They are going to become much more coaches rather than managers,” says Ian Giulianotti, executive director at UAE-based training and recruitment agency NADIA Global.
“It is going to be about getting the best performance from your team and utilising those people in the best way possible.”
Managers will need to improve people’s skills, develop engagement, and make sure that staff feel recognised and worthy. This will involve one-on-one communication and micro-management, rather than just using software to establish when an employee has logged in.
“It’s like being a football manager,” says Giulianotti. ”Making sure that you have the right people in the right positions, and once the game has started, making sure that they are following instructions.”
For more insights, watch “The Future of Work: Transitioning to a post-pandemic workforce”: An exclusive MEED webinar, delivered in partnership with Cigna Insurance
- David Mackenzie, Group Managing Director, Mackenzie Jones Group
- Ian Giulianotti, Executive Director, NADIA Global
- Jérôme Droesch, Chief Executive Officer, Cigna MEA & SEA, Board Member India & Turkey, Senior Executive Officer & Chairman, Cigna Insurance Management Services, DIFC
- Richard Thompson, Editorial Director, MEED
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