Complex Made Simple

Kuwait to bring state employees back to the office in August against hybrid workplace trends

All government employees in Kuwait are required to return to normal working hours in person from 7:30 am to 2:30 pm. The rest of the world, including the UAE, is thinking hybrid

Several Kuwaiti businesses in the private sector have returned to 100% capacity months ago Companies across the UAE are adapting to hybrid working models for the long-term Saudi is considering revamping the kingdom’s pension system to require citizens to work longer and contribute more

Kuwait’s Director-General of the Public Authority for Manpower (PAM), Ahmed Al Mousa, issued a circular on Sunday and said the announcement will lift the work from home mandate starting August 1.

All government employees are required to return to normal working hours in person from 7:30 am to 2:30 pm. Those exempt from the decision are pregnant women and people who have chronic illnesses.

The decision comes as Kuwait is starting to slowly open up and people are returning to some sense of normalcy.

Between March 2020 and July 2020, all employees were working from home as Kuwait put in place several restrictions and a curfew.

Then, starting July 1, employees started to gradually return to work as per the country’s five-stage plan to return to normalcy.

At the beginning of the year, a Cabinet decision reduced the number of employees to reach a capacity that does not exceed 30%, while the private sector does not exceed 50%.

Several businesses in the private sector have returned to 100% capacity months ago.

Remote and hybrid work is the trend 

Matt Hancocks, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner, said there are many reasons why organizations in the Middle East should start to embrace working from home

Hancocks said these range from organizational effectiveness, productivity, employee experience in, but more importantly, the potential global talent war. 

“Many organizations, especially in IT roles, are looking at sourcing talent from outside their geographies, via a remote research model,” he said. “But also, those companies that do offer greater flexibility are likely to be better attractors of talent and could pull talent away from those organizations that don’t offer remote work.”

Osama Al-Zoubi, CTO, Cisco Middle East, and Africa, said: “Last year, Cisco commissioned a Workforce of the Future survey, with over 10,000 workers across 12 markets in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Russia (EMEAR). The intention was to understand what was working well during the work-from-home phase, what was no longer fit for purpose, and how to build a future workplace that caters to all.”

According to Al-Zoubi, the survey revealed that even in a post-pandemic world, employees wanted to keep hold of many of the positives that had emerged in the new way of working. “These benefits include having increased autonomy, working well as a dispersed team, and being able to keep hold of faster decision-making. 

“87% of people told us that they want greater ownership in defining how and when they use office spaces, blending between being office-based and working remotely,” Al-Zoubi said.  

Vaidy Panchabikesan, Regional Sales Director, Kissflow, said the talent landscape has shifted quite a bit in the last 24 months. 

 “Over 70% of workers want flexible remote work options to continue, but over 65% are craving more in-person time with their teams because they have become more siloed and digital exhaustion is a real and unsustainable threat. So, a thoughtful approach to hybrid work will be critical for attracting and retaining a diverse talent pool,” he remarked.

Amir Sohrabi, Area VP for Emerging Markets, Citrix, said despite the practical benefits experienced by many people due to remote work, it is essential that companies pay attention to their employees’ mental and physical well-being. Sohrabi said hybrid work models have the potential to create a new digital divide that, if left unchecked, will quickly establish two classes of workers and infuse the workplace with inequity and bias. 

Ali Elsabban, Head of Corporate, Pearson Middle East, said a good work culture is the backbone of every organization and has a huge impact on the overall business performance. Elsabban said while a physical space does not make a company culture, it can become more challenging to uphold a successful corporate culture across dispersed employees, teams, and offices.  

He said: “It is important for these organizations to enable virtual interaction with their employees and engage in an organic conversation through surveys, polls, and other engagement tools.”

He added that once the model has been implemented, it is crucial to collect data and continue to get feedback on possible improvements on areas that can help the company grow in a lateral format and enhance the work culture.

Dubai’s remote work models

Companies across the UAE are adapting to hybrid working models for the long-term as staff begins to return to the office, reports the National.

Employment experts said companies would have to adapt to a new normal because staff would expect to be allowed to mix days at the workplace with remote work.

A recent survey of almost 1,100 employers and employees in the region found more than two-thirds of employers were operating with a hybrid model.

A lot of companies are now allowing staff to do 3 days at home and work in the office for the other 2 days.

Of the companies surveyed by Hays recruitment, 69% said they offered remote work options, compared with only 43% before the pandemic.

Anthony Spary, head of landlord agency and retail for CBRE said the widespread adoption of a hybrid working model was inevitable, with or without COVID-19.

“It is important to note that this trend is something that has not purely stemmed from the pandemic but has certainly been accelerated by it,” he said.

“From the perspective of both investors and occupiers, office space is now transitioning to become more of a multi-faceted service, rather than just a container for employees.

Jon Ede, regional director in the Middle East for Michael Page said “This hybrid work model is working well for us as a recruitment company, and globally as a company, our productivity is back to 2019 levels with 70% of our consultants working remotely,” he said.

“Our employees are finding the flexibility beneficial in terms of priority and time management.”

Work longer hours, proposes Saudi  

Saudi Arabia is considering revamping the kingdom’s pension system to require citizens to work longer and contribute more.

The government is faced with an estimated actuarial gap of 800 billion riyals ($213 bn) at the state-controlled pension fund. 

This made the government look at proposals to increase the retirement age, according to three people who spoke to Bloomberg. 

It could also require workers to contribute more of their salaries to the General Organization for Social Insurance, or GOSI, which manages both public and private sector pensions, the sources said.

Saudi officials have warned the current system is unsustainable.