How to strike a balance in a post-pandemic office – The National

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With the UAE leading the Arab World in the Covid-19 vaccine drive, administering more than 10 million vaccine doses so far, businesses are planning for their post pandemic office lives. But the question on many business leaders’ minds is whether to go back to our pre-pandemic work setup, or if remote work will become part of our “new normal”.

Microsoft is implementing a hybrid business model, an arrangement that allows most employees to spend half of their time working from home. A hybrid business model is where your staff is made of freelancers and full-time employees.

Organisations in the GCC are also favouring a hybrid-business model. An article published last week in The National discussed how companies in the GCC, are moving towards a hybrid business model. A survey referenced in the article by the Boston Consulting Group and Bayt.com revealed that 89 per cent of people in the UAE would like to continue working from home at all or part of their times.

Other research by Microsoft’s Work Track Index, found 80 per cent of managers from 31 countries expect more flexible work options post-pandemic. The research also found that remote job postings on LinkedIn increased five folds since the onset of the pandemic.

But not everyone is a fan of the remote work model. David Solomon, Goldman Sachs chief executive rejected remote working, labelling it as an “aberration”.

We’ve followed a hybrid-business model for years at my company. Even though the arrangement may seem straightforward with employees spending certain days in the office, it wasn’t always so simple.

Some of the concerns I had, that fellow business owners are now questioning is who determines what days to be spent in the offices, and how can we establish proper communication channels to effectively achieve our targets.

What worked for us in terms of planning is that our work setup revolve around: Job role, location, and the right communication channel.

Job role

Who needs to work together in order to achieve the best results? For us, those who work solo most of the time like photographers, content creators and designers, don’t need to come to the office every day, and a work model where they met everyone once or twice a week is ideal. If they are based in another country, then we would have virtual video meetings with the team members they worked with. Those on the consultancy division, however, and who work on planning and strategy need to spend more time together, and they need to ensure that they were present in the office on the same day(s).

Location

Where are your team members located? If your team resides in the same city then it is easy to set up physical meetings in the office. If you depend on remote talent, then you can save on rent and meet them virtually. Last year, Abu Dhabi rolled out a new type of licence that allows long-term freelancers to work and live in the emirate. The permit allows freelancers to work from home, an option that was not available to expats in the past.

Ensuring no one is left behind

Of course, we still had to figure out a proper communication channel, and that meant that remote employees had to be present physically or virtually in meetings, and a team member was in charge of briefing them and keeping them up-to-date. This may not work perfectly at every organisation, and a vertical organisation may find that challenging. In our case, we had to ensure that our reward system was based on merit wherever our colleagues were based.

The good thing about this is that there is no right or wrong way when planning for a post pandemic office. Businesses are figuring it as they go along, and it all comes down to your specific company’s needs and the functions your staff manage.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi.

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