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Remote work in the UAE and safety measures for office returnees

Weird times in COVID land globally, as people are either happy to work remotely or eager, but perhaps apprehensive, to return to the office

The UAE ranked first in the Arab world and 31st globally in the remote working index Remote work is here to stay, with 82% of survey respondents agreeing that it will be more common post-pandemic A company’s asset management system deployed in the cloud can track training, certification, and field checks

Weird times in COVID land globally, as people are either happy to work remotely or eager, but perhaps apprehensive, to return to the office.

UAE remote work rankings

In the UAE, remote work conditions are recognized internationally.   

The country has ranked first in the Arab world and 31st globally in the remote working index published by UK-based Circle Loop.

The country has surpassed Italy, Japan, Hong Kong, Ireland, Malaysia, Russia, the US, and China.

Speaking about the UAE’s latest achievement, Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Teleworking Applications, said, “Over the past year, the world has witnessed great changes brought about by repercussions from the Coronavirus pandemic, which were reflected in all aspects of life.”

He noted that the UAE Government was able to ensure the continuation of services while preserving the health and safety of human resources by enabling 95% of workers to work remotely.

The Circle Loop report also named the UAE as one of the best countries for the speed and efficiency of internet connections with an overall ranking in the ‘Speed Score’ at 98.78 Mbps.

Last year, the UAE has launched several initiatives to support remote working including the new ‘Remote Working Protocols for Dubai Government,’ which allows public sector employees in Dubai to work outside their offices either fully or partially.

Dubai also launched a program allowing overseas remote working professionals to live in the Emirate while continuing to serve their employers in their home country.  

Read: The outdoors, indoors and security corridors of today’s remote workforce

Read: Attacks on remote desktop protocols grew by 177% in the UAE, reaching 15.6 million in 2020

Remote work to stay

New research from Citrix, an American multinational software company and SaaS provider, has released a recent survey that confirmed that remote work is here to stay, with 82% of all respondents agreeing that it will be more common post-pandemic. Other key findings from the study include:

  • 55% saying that businesses will miss out on top talent if they do not offer flexible work options
  • 41% believe their personal lives have been positively affected
  • 52% of respondents favor a hybrid model where they can work from both the office and remotely

According to Amir Sohrabi, Area VP Emerging Markets, Citrix said: 

“In 2020, businesses were surviving, not thriving. In 2021, they need to look up from the operational side of the business and dedicate time and resources to identify the core values of their organization with a hybrid workforce supported and engaged by their employer.”

How to safely reopen offices

Sameer Makhija, Business Development Director, Asset Management Solutions, IMEA, Infor contributed an article identifying 5 steps to safely come back to the office.

He said organizations across the globe will be required to not only improve cleaning and hygiene practices, but to prove in an audit that they have followed these practices in a timely, prescribed manner.  

 Here are the five key areas employers must consider:

Consideration #1: Clean operation by employees 

It’s not enough to publish protocols for frontline workers in industries such as healthcare. All employees in every industry will be subject to new guidelines about keeping the physical environment safe. Everyone from field technicians and custodians to storeroom clerks and facilities administrators will need to adopt new ways of working.  

A company’s asset management system deployed in the cloud can track training, certification, and field checks.   

Consideration #2: Updating preventive maintenance schedules 

Protocols to ensure a clean and safe work environment are built on preventive maintenance schedules. So it’s important that these schedules have been updated to reflect new and quickly changing requirements.   

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has issued new guidelines for flushing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems pre- and post-occupancy, including operating exhaust fans and opening air dampers or windows, and disinfecting high-touch areas.

An organization will need to determine the correct frequency of cleaning tasks and the best way to train employees to comply. The proper use and disposal of protective gear, the use of required disinfectants, and how to maintain distance in tight quarters are just some of the topics you might need to address.  

Consideration #3: Identifying assets at risk 

Businesses need to understand which physical assets are most critical to an operation, and therefore pose the greatest risks to business continuity, as a first step. 

Related factors to consider are user safety, customer satisfaction, environmental impact, compliance with government and local regulations, and maintaining profit margins. 

Consideration #4: Be ready for changing expectations 

Strengthening internal risk management will ensure an organization is audit-ready.    

Pwc notes: “In these challenging times, internal audit executives have both an obligation and an opportunity to help their companies manage the most critical risks COVID-19 has either created or magnified.” 

KPMG writes that the internal audit team should discuss priorities and actions with the management team daily; increase focus on high-risk areas; and “be the eyes on the ground” while leaders are consumed with keeping the business running, among other recommendations.  

Consideration #5: Move from preventive to prescriptive maintenance 

Prescriptive maintenance, also known as RxM, can not only predict failure but also recommend the next steps. While predictive maintenance can highlight how much time there is until an asset fails, prescriptive maintenance will help figure out how operating the equipment under different scenarios could extend the time before failure. 

A Gartner survey on employers/employees back at the office

Carolina Valencia, a director in the Gartner HR practice, said that her research found that:

  • 64% of companies offered a new well-being benefit in response to the COVID-19 pandemic 
  • 85% introduced additional mental health support
  • 87% of businesses provided flexible work hours to employees taking care of children or parents
  • 26% gave employees paid time off (PTO) for childcare and 21% gave PTO for eldercare
  • 18% reimbursed childcare expenses

“If we help support employees with all aspects of their health during turbulent times more effectively, not only do they have better lives, but they perform at a higher level as well,” she said.