“We are entering the era of the mobile workforce… This is a huge shift in the workspace landscape globally, and businesses are looking closely at what this means for their corporate real estate portfolios,” said Mark Dixon, founder and chief executive of International Workplace Group (IWG).
Remote working (or telecommuting) has been taking the world by storm, which IWG dubs the “flexible work revolution.” The GCC, and primarily the UAE, have been slowly getting in on this trend.
The UAE leads remote working in the region
A recent survey by IWG of over 18,000 people across 96 companies and 100 countries found that each week, around 60% of UAE employees work at least one day a week somewhere other than the office, while 52% of those work remotely for half the week or more. 10% answered that they work remotely five times per week.
UAE’s numbers are still lagging behind those of countries like China, where more than 60% of staff report working away from the office at least half the week, while other highly flexible economies include India, Mexico, South Africa and France, IWG explains.
More than 84% of UAE businesses surveyed said that flexible work helped them retain talent, while 86% said it had a positive effect on productivity.
As for the benefits employees are reaping, they are saving on transport, enjoying an improved balance between life and work, improving productivity, and boosting their motivation.
In July, the Dubai government approved a new law for 2019 that gives government employees the option to remote work when their tasks don’t require them to remain in the office.
“Our objective is to ensure a strong work-life balance and stability for all government employees,” Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said. “We have also issued directives to provide all means of assistance to them regardless of their positions and responsibilities in order to help them realize their full creative potential.”
Dubai’s new law and Sheikh Mohammed’s statement feel like the announcements an innovative tech startup would make. It is truly interesting to find a government partaking in 21st century SME philosophies. This bold move could prove significantly rewarding to both employees and government bodies in the future, and more and more businesses in the private sector are bound to be affected by these new trends.
New businesses are cropping up as a result
While Dubai’s government has only recently acknowledged remote working and its benefits, businesses in the private sector have been dabbling with the practice for many years.
In fact, the prevalence of remote working has led to the rise of entirely new businesses tailored to the needs of this niche group of employees.
In a detailed report by The National, the UAE daily explored the various spaces that have opened up in the wake of remote working.
In Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue, two primary hubs have been accommodating telecommuters: A4 Space and Nadi Al Quoz. The first is a “multipurpose venue with a library, community workspace, function rooms, a cinema, and cafe.” Nadi Al Quoz, on the other hand, “is a multidisciplinary area – inspired by a Zen garden – available to the public for educational workshops, pop-ups, and team-building exercises.”
“We take a risk on risk takers,” says Vilma Jurkute, Alserkal Avenue director. “We opened because there was huge demand from the market. We wanted to create a platform where free-lancers and project-based workers have everything from desk space and free internet to screening rooms. There’s space for them to set up businesses and expand their network.”
As for Abu Dhabi, its prime destination for remote working is Alliance Française, a venue which provides a library, a cinema, a café, and other services to meet the needs of creatives.
On the more luxurious end of the spectrum, we have Intersect by Lexus, situated in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). Offering similar services to A4 Space and Alliance Française, Intersect by Lexus distinguishes itself by being geared more towards the high-end customer.
Businesses stand to gain a lot from offering remote working
The study by IWG found that businesses that offered flexible working strategies to their employees were rewarded with significant benefits:
Business growth: 89% – up from 67% in 2016
Competitiveness: 87% up from only 59% in 2014
Productivity: 82% up from 75% in 2013
Attracting and retaining top talent: 80% – up from 64% in 2016
Profit maximization: 83%
Which jobs lend themselves well to remote working, and how much do they pay?
In the UAE, many remote workers found in the country’s range of remote workspace hubs include millennials in their 20s, and range from Emiratis, to Arabs, to expats. The National found that their positions ranged from writers, gallery owners and artists to product and fashion designers.
Businesspersons, such as recruiters, also frequent these workspaces, where they can conduct interviews with prospective recruits in a stress-free environment.
Career-advice website FlexJobs, using data from salary and compensation site PayScale, created a list of the 14 most common remote jobs in the US. They found that the number one job on their list pays almost $90,000 a year on average.
1. Client Services Director
Average pay: $87,575/year
2. Speech Language Pathologist
Average pay: $79,268/year
3. Business Development Manager
Average pay: $71,233/year
Average pay: $69,313/year
Average pay: $60,132/year
6. Account Manager
Average pay: $51,181/year
Average pay: $49,749/year
Average pay: $48,489/year
Average pay: $48,159/year
10. Online Tutor
Average pay: $36,233/year