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Can construction staff work from home in the Middle East?

Is remote working an option for the Middle East's construction employees – and can employers afford it? A UAE-based recruitment expert weighs in

Can construction employees work from home in the Middle East?
Can construction employees work from home in the Middle East?
Marcus Taylor, Taylor Sterling Associates and BuildingMENA.com.
Marcus Taylor, Taylor Sterling Associates and BuildingMENA.com.

Introducing alternative working arrangements presents challenges, but it also offers opportunities for employees to flourish, as Marcus Taylor, managing partner at Taylor Sterling Associates, explains.

In recent years, remote working – defined as a situation in which an employee works mainly from home and communicates with the company by email and telephone – has become a hot topic, and the concept is gaining momentum globally.

As the millennial generation begins to enter senior managerial positions, the flexibility to be able to complete a day’s work from a remote location is no longer seen as a benefit but more as a shift in corporate lifestyle. However, in many organisations, the option for employees to work from the comfort of their own home for a day or two a week is still considered a huge perk that needs to be negotiated.

A recent study conducted by the International Workplace Group found that 60% of UAE employees spend at least one day per week working from somewhere other than their office. One in 10 works from remote locations, away from the traditional office setting, for the entire working week.

Of the businesses surveyed in the same study, 65% offered flexible working arrangements as a tool to attract top talent. Similarly, 44% of those surveyed agreed that flexible working arrangements have allowed them to increase job satisfaction levels, providing further evidence that the introduction of flexible working environments suits today’s employees and is a great tool to help maintain a top-tier workforce. However, does it reflect in performance?

I have spent most of my career working in a country different to the one in which my office is based, leaving me completely responsible for my own productivity. I can’t tell you that I never had a few extra hours in bed, or cut my day short to go fishing on a nice day. However, I can certainly say that working in a home office set-up can be very productive, especially when working on a project.

Providing the option to work remotely enables employees to do more of what they love, while creating a greater bond between their professional and personal lives and increasing their satisfaction in both areas.

For employers in today’s market, creating a healthy work-life balance for employees has a compelling competitive advantage. Unfortunately, the option of remote working does not lend itself to every industry. In construction, the term ‘on-site’ was coined for a reason. However, with the right discipline, other traditionally office-based roles can be performed from remote locations, helping business owners cut costs on office space.

It is important for firms to understand that remote workers do not have to be managed very differently from their counterparts who have committed to the daily commute. By keeping communications and expectations consistent, managing a remotely diverse team can prove to be easier than overseeing the regular in-house squad.

I believe there are three basic principles that firms must keep in mind when considering the introduction of alternative working arrangements. Firstly, they must set clear expectations – transparency and trust are the foundations of a healthy remote relationship. From the outset, expectations regarding working hours, methods, deliverables, and the frequency of communication should be clear. Discuss and agree upon these before any remote working arrangements start.

Secondly, like in any relationship, whether professional or personal, communication is key. Consider setting up a platform for sharing daily updates on upcoming tasks and immediate business. Organising regular weekly meetings to discuss bigger and more long-term issues is also advisable.

READ: Are Middle East construction recruiters ignoring staff engagement?

Lastly, it is important to choose the right technology for your team, and to follow up regularly to ensure everyone has the support they need. This will mitigate any technological issues and boost collaboration across all processes.

Technology has played a key role in making the remote workspace possible. It can help companies find synergy in their processes and systems. Software and applications are only useful if the team knows how to use them, and if the tools actually make the job easier, not more complex or time-consuming.

Introducing alternative working arrangements always comes with its own set of challenges. Working from home is not for everyone, nor is it by any means an effortless path.

A company may be reluctant to introduce flexible arrangements for fear that productivity will fall. Meanwhile, some employees that are given the option to work remotely may come to feel that they are not trusted and are being micro-managed, leading to dissatisfaction and resentment. For others, however, the option of remote working is an opportunity to flourish both personally and professionally.

If you are a business owner that is looking to explore alternative working arrangements to boost the efficiency and motivation of your employees, send them to work in a remote location far away and see what happens.

Check out more than 1,000 civil engineering, construction, project management, MEP, design, and facilities management jobs in the Middle East on Construction Week's sister website, buildingmena.com.

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