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UAE Employees Stay Productive During Covid-19

Based on the results COVID-19 Middle East Survey results

May 27, 2020

A view on what employers in the Middle East are doing to cope with the changes to the business imposed on them by the COVID-19 pandemic
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COVID 19 Coronavirus

The drastic rise in home working driven by the COVID-19 pandemic has not significantly damaged staff productivity in the UAE, according to research by Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ:WLTW), a leading global advisory, broking, and solutions company.

say the new working arrangements increased productivity

In a survey of UAE businesses, 22% of employers said that new working arrangements have actually increased productivity, 11% said there had been no change, while 39% said there was only a small negative impact. No employer reported a large impact, and just 11% said any productivity drop was ‘moderate’.

The move from the office to working from home during the pandemic is a major shift in business practices in the UAE. Two thirds of employers (66%) now say that over 75% of their workforce is working remotely. Before COVID-19 the vast majority (81%) said less than 10% of their workforce worked remotely.

Asked when they were thinking of stopping their new flexible working arrangements, 77% of UAE firms said they have no end date in mind, while 13% are thinking of the end of June. The government has now eased restrictions since the time of the survey, but because working from home is generally working well, Willis Towers Watson does not believe there will be a push by businesses to get staff back to the office, especially with concerns about social distancing.

Thom Janssen, Middle East Head of Employee Insights, Willis Towers Watson, said: “The UAE has always strived to be a leader in smart working and, as we emerge from this crisis, this is a great opportunity to re-imagine how work can get done.”

The UAE has always strived to be a leader in smart working and, as we emerge from this crisis, this is a great opportunity to re-imagine how work can get done.

“The pandemic has forced us into a massive experiment in working from home, and many employers are relieved at how well staff productivity has held up, or even increased. Technology like fast broadband has been a huge enabler, and workers have been quick to switch to tools such as video conferencing.”

“Employers have seen that staff can be just as productive away from the office, and that may spark a greater shift to more agile working options, which could have implications for office real estate and the wider economy.”

The survey also looked at what employers are doing to help staff cope with the pressures and changes caused by COVID-19, and found:


of employers have increased staff access to counselling services, with a further 17% planning to do so


of businesses have removed any exclusions or limitations relating to pandemics from staff medical / life / disability plans, with 7% planning to do so


are running virtual social engagement initiatives for teams and departments, to help people stay in touch and socialize, with a further 17% planning to do so

Although 97% of companies are regularly communicating with staff to keep them updated, most are not doing enough to listen to their workforce at this critical time. Since the COVID-19 crisis started, only 15% have surveyed their staff to ask them their views and needs.

Thom Janssen said: “While this is a challenging time for businesses, it is also placing huge stresses and pressures on individual people. Good employers are thinking of ways to help their staff navigate the pandemic, through better communication, more flexible working, and improvements to benefits packages.

“This is a game-changing leadership moment for many companies. Those that put their people first will be best placed to emerge from the crisis with higher employee wellbeing, morale and engagement, which will all be essential for the future success of any business.”

About the survey

Willis Towers Watson surveyed a diverse range of employers based in the Middle East for its 2020 COVID-19 Pulse Survey, which was conducted during April 2020. The 35 UAE respondents employ about 590,000 employees globally, and 92,000 in the UAE.

For a copy of the survey please get in touch.


Thomas Janssen
Middle East Head of Employee Insights

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