Almost 70% of Employees Are “Out of Practice” for Office Life

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  • 80% of employees believe there is a stigma associated with working from home.
  • Almost 65% of young professionals believe learning and growth were hampered by the pandemic.
  • No overwhelming consensus on return to the office: Over 40% strongly believe that continuing to work from home is better for work-life balance while  55% of those wanting to return to the office feel they are more productive in an office setting.
  • 15% of employees surveyed have quit as a result of being asked to return to the office full time.

LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, has surveyed 1,000 employees across the UAE and KSA to understand how people feel about returning to the office and how organizations are adapting to the new world of work. 

As COVID-19 restrictions ease globally, returning to the office in many parts of the world is imminent. Having worked remotely for over a year and half now, some employers and employees are rethinking not just how they work, but why they work.

The LinkedIn MENA Future of Work survey revealed that over 50% of employees have returned to work. However, over 40% are looking for a flexible schedule and ability to work from home part-time, highlighting a new hybrid way of working many have grown accustomed to. A significant 20% of those surveyed are looking for new jobs that offer remote working and almost 15% have quit as a result of being asked to return to the office full time.

Out of office – out of practice

When asked by LinkedIn, almost 70% of all employees stated they felt ‘out of practice’ when it came to office life. Over 35% were no longer used to socialising in the workplace and spending all day with other people. A third of the respondents also said that small habits, such as keeping their workspace tidy and wearing office appropriate clothing, were lost given the new routine  created by  the pandemic.

Ali Matar, Head of LinkedIn MENA and Emerging Markets said: “This is a time of significant adjustment for both employees and businesses. At LinkedIn, we realized that to better help organizations plan their return-to-office strategies, it’s important to understand how employees in the region feel about the future of work”.

Matar added: “It is clear that soft skills have suffered after an extended period of employees staying apart, and especially for young professionals who haven’t had enough time to build up social skills. We are seeing these conversations unfold on LinkedIn: our members are experiencing the biggest workplace change in a generation and it’s important we help employees find their voice in their new world of work, across industries and locations”.

An impact on learning

The new research also brought light to the fact that almost 65% of younger professionals aged 16-24 believe their professional learning was severely impacted by the pandemic.

Commenting on the impact of WFH on the youngest generation, Matar said: “We are highlighting the need of the hour: organizations need to invest in not just remote working capabilities but also remote learning, especially during the formative years of a young professional’s career.”

The WFH Stigma

Although almost 40% of employees stated they prefer WFH to avoid an unnecessary commute to the office, almost 80% believe there is a stigma associated with working from home and many (65%) confirmed they worry that not being seen in the office will negatively impact their career progression, as they have less facetime with the boss and it’s harder to learn from colleagues. 

One size does not fit all

Results suggest employees working from home for the past year felt safe, happier and were able to spend more time with their family, a key driver in championing a new model of work. However, many also felt isolated, overwhelmed, and burnt out.

Matar said: “These results indicate the need for a multi-faceted policy that takes into account the diverse needs of employees. For example, new joiners at a company might need to do unboarding at the office as part of their training and to capture the whole experience, while employees  who have been at the company for longer can benefit from more flexibility”.

Recognizing that each employer’s need is unique, LinkedIn announced a new flexible work policy. The policy moves away from a one-size-fits-all global policy of spending 50% of time in the office (when it’s safe to fully reopen). LinkedIn’s approach includes both hybrid and remote roles, recognizing the right formula for how we work best will differ person by person and team by team.

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