Why a flexible workplace is key to reducing employee turnover

Author: Criselda Diala-McBride | Date: 2 Nov 2016

Organisations must adapt their HR practices to meet the needs of an evolving workforce, experts suggest

Workplace mobility has a huge impact on the future of work in the UAE, where almost a quarter of HR directors – surveyed recently by Robert Half UAE – have identified work-life balance as the leading reason why employees leave.
“This is a trend that should not be ignored,” according to Gareth El Mettouri, associate director of Robert Half UAE. “A big driver behind the future of the workplace is [the need for] organisations to adapt to the working styles of the millennial generation. These ‘digital natives’ value their ability to be connected to their technology at any time and from anywhere, and they don’t expect to be tied to a desk to prove their productivity.”

The study found that 39 per cent of HR directors believed in the importance of workplace mobility in boosting employee productivity and engagement in their organisations. This figure is not far from the global average, which stood at 37 per cent.

The findings also appear to agree with a recent YouGov survey, which indicated that 74 per cent of UAE employees believe a remote and flexible work schedule increases their productivity.

El Mettouri attributes this development mainly to the current shortage of highly skilled professionals available in the market.

“As roles continue to [become more specialised], the skills required evolve. Businesses need to adapt their workplace to support the non-monetary benefits these professionals often seek,” he said. “In order to effectively plan for the future, HR professionals should consider their resource planning, their retention rates and the current and future make-up [of] their workforce.”

He pointed out that while employers in the country are becoming more resilient to global and regional uncertainties, they remain cautious in who they hire. They look for people with the expertise and skills to match the requirements of their organisations, including cultural fit.

“In a region where more than eight out of 10 HR directors and CFOs have consistently registered challenges in finding skilled employees, seeking out the ‘cream of the crop’ talent also comes with its challenges as these professionals are often receiving multiple job offers at a local and international level,” El Mettouri noted.

Meanwhile, Mahesh Shahdadpuri, CEO of Dubai-based TASC Outsourcing, cautioned that building and implementing a workplace flexibility strategy could be complex, as it requires focus on several factors.

“I believe the key is to ensure a positive impact on the organisation’s overall performance, employee happiness and customer satisfaction,” Shahdadpuri said. “To achieve this, it’s crucial to have an organisation-wide consensus on the flexibility options that should be extended to employees.”

Shahdadpuri added that in planning their workplace flexibility strategy, organisations should first address specific concerns, including whether or not their infrastructure can support communication. In addition, a system should be in place to guarantee security against data theft or breach of confidentiality, and remote login.

Other concerns that should be considered are the size of the organisation and the industry it belongs to; maturity levels of employees; the company's bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy and other guidelines; training procedures; and performance measurement mechanisms.

“It may be easier to monitor performance under flexible working conditions by creating a ‘results only work environment’ (ROWE), which will work well for sales and consultative organisations in the UAE,” Shahdadpuri added.