Work, study from home serious option now: survey

By DG Staff

DUBAI 5 March 2020: With the coronavirus outbreak spreading across the world, one-third of Gulf-based employers are planning to have staff work from home, according to a survey conducted by Middle East employment portal, GulfTalent.

The survey received responses from 1,600 company executives, managers and human resource professionals across the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Up to 35 percent of Gulf-based businesses could soon be asking employees to work from home. This consists of six percent who have just launched work-from-home plans as a result of the recent outbreak, five percent who have confirmed plans being rolled out soon, 12 percent who are reviewing the concept, combined with a further 12 percent who already had remote work arrangements prior to the outbreak.

Meanwhile, 54 percent of survey respondents said they had no remote work plans so far, while 11 percent said their firms will definitely not entertain the possibility of staff working from home.

Bahrain, UAE lead

Across the region, firms in Bahrain reported the highest rate of remote work plans at 38 percent. This was followed by the UAE and Kuwait at 37 percent each. In Saudi Arabia 30 percent of firms indicated plans for working from home, while businesses in Oman registered the region’s lowest rate of possible remote work at just 18 percent.

With remote work being a new concept for most businesses in the region, the survey found that many were scrambling to get set up technically and organisationally to have staff work from home. By contrast, multinationals surveyed indicated the highest readiness to switch to remote work.

Apart from introducing remote work arrangements, many companies surveyed reported a range of other measures to deal with the impact of the outbreak – including restricting business travel, providing health advice to employees and limiting external meetings of staff with clients and suppliers.

Retrenchment & Unpaid Leave

Faced with a decline in business resulting from the outbreak, some of the firms reported plans to reduce costs through staff redundancies and unpaid leaves. These were mainly concentrated in the hospitality sector, followed by aviation, logistics and events.

A significant 42 percent of employers surveyed reported no plans or changes of any kind in response to the outbreak.

The survey asked managers in which ways their business had been affected by the outbreak. By far the most common impact reported was the difficulty of business travel. Several Gulf countries have imposed restrictions on travel into and within the region.

Companies also reported reduced demand for their products and services, particularly in hospitality, events, education and retail. In an effort to prevent the spread of the virus through large gatherings, governments in several Gulf countries have ordered the cancellation of public events and exhibitions, and closure of nurseries and in some cases even schools.

Chinese Supplies

A further challenge reported by many firms was the difficulty of securing supplies, particularly products and equipment manufactured in China being delayed due to factory closures. Around one-fifth of survey respondents said their company was actively seeking alternative suppliers.

Several respondents reported recruitment from outside their country becoming more challenging, due to flight cancellations, restrictions on entry as well as lock-down in candidates’ home countries.

Not all businesses were negatively affected by the outbreak. Some reported a surge in demand for their products and services, particularly those active in healthcare. However, many reported that they were unable to fully serve the demand due to supply constraints and challenges of recruiting from overseas.

Many restaurants and retailers reported a jump in online orders while in-store purchases dropped, as customers chose to stay home and have items delivered to them.

ZU sets up distance learning facilities following Covid-19 concerns

Zayed University announced on Wednesday that its students will be taking an early Spring break beginning 8th March, following Covid-19 concerns.

In a statement, the university said that the move follows “current health and safety precautions issued by the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention and the Ministry of Education,” adding that the break will end on 19th March.

University Officials stated that Zayed University diligently abides to the health and safety precautions and regulations issued by the government.

The statement noted that from 22nd March until 2nd April, Zayed University students and faculty are to complete educational curricula and materials via the ‘Adobe Connect’ application which was setup for distance learning.

The application allows for online synchronous (at the same time, live) classrooms between faculty members and students.

“All students have access to a microphone to enable them to actively participate with teachers and their classmates. Teachers can facilitate discussions, present [lecture] slides, engage with polling questions, foster collaboration amongst students in breakout rooms and much more,” said the University’s Provost Michael Wilson.

Orientation Session

He also mentioned that the Zayed University Centre for Educational Innovation is offering a one-hour orientation session, starting today to prepare faculty members for the distance learning application.

Meanwhile, the University’s IT department alongside some faculty members are putting together an instructional video concerning the distant learning mechanisms, which shall be shared with the students in the next few days.

The statement noted that the University has taken several steps ensure precautionary and preventative measures to avert the spread of the new coronavirus.

“Zayed University [has] followed recent instructions issued by the UAE Ministry of Education, which called upon all higher education institutions last Sunday to halt all internal and external trips, competitions, festivals and activities on campus, especially students’ assemblies and gatherings, and events and activities between universities or with other entities with immediate effect until further notice,” the statement added.

The university has also begun sanitisation and disinfection procedures across public areas, classrooms and bathroom facilities across its campuses, it continued.

The Campus Physical Development and Services department has placed several awareness posters at entries and notice boards that had been approved and issued from the health authorities in UAE.

Students will return to on-campus learning on 5th April 2020, the university advised.