▶ Some res­i­dents in Dubai report lower pro­duc­tiv­ity yet put in longer hours dur­ing the Covid-19 pan­demic Work from home or re­turn to of­fice? Sur­vey finds work­place of fu­ture in state of flux

The National - News - - BUSINESS - KELSEY WARNER

The fu­ture of the modern work­place is in a state of flux, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by Blue­ground, a New York prop­erty tech­nol­ogy com­pany that op­er­ates in a dozen cities around the world, in­clud­ing Dubai and Is­tan­bul.

While peo­ple in health care, e-com­merce and me­dia busi­nesses are more likely to report greater out­put be­cause of the Covid-19 pan­demic and its im­pact, oth­ers may not feel as pro­duc­tive.

A sur­vey of 500 peo­ple across the lo­ca­tions where Blue­ground op­er­ates shows res­i­dents in Dubai feel they are get­ting less done while work­ing more hours and feel­ing a higher level of anx­i­ety while work­ing from home.

“There’s cer­tainly pref­er­ence for a hy­brid model of work­ing from home and go­ing to the of­fice,” Amine Housni, re­gional man­ager of Blue­ground, told The Na­tional.

Blue­ground pro­vides leases and prop­erty man­age­ment through its app for fur­nished apart­ments in neigh­bour­hoods in a dozen cities around the world. It has 3,500 units in its port­fo­lio and sur­veyed its cus­tomers about their ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing from home in April and May.

Those sound­ing the death knell for of­fices may want to look at its findings: two thirds of its Dubai guests report that they are get­ting the same or less done as they did when work­ing from an of­fice, and half said they are work­ing “much more”. Half of those sur­veyed also re­ported feel­ing greater anx­i­ety than they had pre-pan­demic.

This echos a stark warn­ing in March from Stan­ford Univer­sity

econ­o­mist Ni­cholas Bloom, who stud­ies re­mote work. He said that the global work-fromhome move­ment, in­tended to main­tain out­put dur­ing the pan­demic, could ac­tu­ally gen­er­ate a world­wide pro­duc­tiv­ity slump and threaten eco­nomic growth for many years.

As re­stric­tions around the world are lifted and of­fice work­ers be­gin re­turn­ing to their phys­i­cal work spa­ces, many are won­der­ing what the “new nor­mal” will look like.

“There’s this weird false bi­nary when we talk about the fu­ture of work, that we should ei­ther be chained to our desk or do ev­ery­thing by Zoom,” said Tom Good­win, head of fu­tures and in­sight at Publi­cis Groupe. “We need to have a ma­ture con­ver­sa­tion about the na­ture of jobs and what they re­ally re­quire.”

Of­fices con­vey con­fi­dence in the fu­ture of a com­pany and will not be done away with at all, he said.

“While every­one right now is long­ing for green fields and lov­ing bak­ing bread, we must re­mem­ber that we are a so­cial species and trust comes from pres­ence.”

Of­fices of­fer the ba­sic ne­ces­sity of al­low­ing every­one to come to­gether. Dur­ing a re­ces­sion, large in­vest­ments in new fit-outs or tech­nol­ogy in­fra­struc­ture are un­likely, he added. How­ever, com­pany leave and re­mote work poli­cies may pro­vide room for longer es­capes to con­nect with na­ture or have some down time.

Mr Housni agrees. Blue­ground apart­ments come fur­nished. Its mil­len­nial tar­get de­mo­graphic is, by rep­u­ta­tion, fairly nomadic and prefers flex­i­ble work, and liv­ing spa­ces are de­signed to re­flect that. But be­fore the pan­demic, it was com­mon for cus­tomers to re­quest that desks be re­moved from units as most peo­ple pre­ferred to head to an of­fice, cafe or co-work­ing space for the day.

“Now they are ask­ing for the desks back,” he said, but he does not ex­pect this to last.

At the start of 2020, the com­pany was plan­ning a rapid ex­pan­sion, look­ing to go from 550 units in Dubai to 1,000 and from 3,500 glob­ally to 55,000.

To­day, those plans are on hold. But when busi­ness picks back up, Mr Housni said he would be look­ing at a dif­fer­ent type of unit: more square footage and a pref­er­ence for bal­conies or out­door space in a low-rise build­ing. Mem­o­ries of be­ing shut in a high-rise for a long stretch will linger, he said.

WeWork, which never shut its lo­ca­tions in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, has mod­i­fied its shared spa­ces with stag­gered seat­ing and sig­nage to guide safe so­cial dis­tanc­ing. The in­creased sani­ti­sa­tion prac­tices and clean­ing sup­plies on of­fer, as well as the sig­nage are “part of the new nor­mal”, the com­pany said in a man­ual de­tail­ing the changes it is im­ple­ment­ing.

“Our aim is to ease the tran­si­tion for those com­ing back to the work­place, while still main­tain­ing the feel­ing of col­lab­o­ra­tion and con­nec­tion,” said Riad Thoumas, gen­eral man­ager of WeWork UAE.

So far that is prov­ing dif­fi­cult. Booths orig­i­nally de­signed for close col­lab­o­ra­tion are lim­ited to one per per­son.

“This ‘new nor­mal’ won’t be en­tirely log­i­cal,” Mr Good­win said. He pre­dicts we will re­turn to how things were much more quickly and eas­ily than one may as­sume.

“This is an op­por­tu­nity to go to a blank sheet of pa­per” to com­pletely reeval­u­ate what the fu­ture of work should look like, he said. Other­wise, the op­por­tu­nity for last­ing change will pass.

As of­fice work­ers be­gin re­turn­ing to their work spa­ces, many are won­der­ing what the ‘new nor­mal’ will look like

Of­fices in­stil con­fi­dence in a com­pany among em­ploy­ees and will con­tinue to be part of the work­place life­style

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.