The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the rise in demand for flexible work in the Middle East. New research from LinkedIn has shed light on employee sentiment in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, with 70 percent of those surveyed saying they have considered leaving - or have already left - a job due to a lack of flexibility. According to Ali Matar, head of LinkedIn MENA and EMEA Venture Markets “The impact of the pandemic on how we work has been transformative, and research globally is pointing to an increased urgency for greater flexibility and empowerment in the workplace”.
The beginning of ‘flexidus’
LinkedIn refers to the shift toward flexible work as a ‘flexidus’. However, research showed there is still a disconnect between what companies offer in terms of flexibility and what employees want. While businesses bolster their flexible working policies, there is still a noticeable disconnection between companies' offerings and employees' wants. The top three most useful policies according to employees surveyed are the flexible start and finish times (74 percent), an increase in annual leave (74 percent), and a 4-day working week determined by the employer (72 percent).
However, while almost three-quarters of professionals surveyed believe that the pandemic has exposed a need for change in how we approach flexible working, more than half say that no new flexible working policies have been introduced by their company.
Untapped talent pool
LinkedIn also found that 78 percent of companies are now more open to hiring a professional returning from a career break, but would be wary of applicants who weren’t upfront about their break (47 percent). This may be a relief to professionals as nearly 56 percent stated that they plan on taking a career break in the near future.
Interestingly, research reveals that over 81 percent of employees believe a career break set them back two years in their career progression, while 53 percent of hiring managers labeled those returning to the workforce from a career break as an ‘untapped talent pool’.
The research highlighted that a lack of workplace flexibility significantly impacts women’s careers. Of the women who have had to leave a job because of a lack of flexible working, 20 percent say their career progression has been held back and 22 percent say they will only consider roles that have robust flexible working policies.
In addition, nearly one in five women feels there is still a stigma attached to flexible working and a staggering 2 percent have hidden their flexible working from colleagues, clients or friends. On the other hand, the impact of greater flexibility is felt keenly by women with 37 percent of women saying that the ability to work more flexibly would improve their mental health and almost a third of women surveyed said they would thrive.
The Bottom line
The LinkedIn research highlights an incredible opportunity for GCC organisations to reshape the world of work. It’s critical we remember to keep people at the heart of it to truly build ‘work that works’ for everyone.