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Workplaces in the Middle East need to change. Will the companies be ready for it in 2023?

Experts say the workplace must change to create inclusive, equitable and flexible work environments

Workplaces in the Middle East need to change. Will the companies be ready for it in 2023?
[Source photo: Venkat Reddy/Fast Company Middle East]

When Elon Musk entered Twitter headquarters as a boss, he threatened to lay off 75% of its staff. The retained workers were told to work for longer hours or leave. Result? Hundreds of Twitter employees resigned after the hardcore reset.

According to experts, the workplace needs to change quickly to respond to global recession risks, the ongoing need for flexible working, and the push for increased participation.

In 2023, workplaces and workforces will be more dispersed and digital, increasing the demand for connection and clarity around the future of the business. “What will separate the survivors from the thrivers will be the ability of organizations to protect and prioritize their investment in people, purpose, and culture at a time when many will be inclined to make cuts,” says Lucy d’Abo, CEO at together.

If culture and strategy aren’t aligned, top initiatives from digitization to product innovation may fail, magnifying any external shocks generated by macroeconomic conditions,” d’Abo adds.

Here are the five things that will shape the way we work in 2023.

GLOBAL RECESSION: IS EMPLOYEE>EMPLOYER?

Around 86% of the 1,300 global CEOs surveyed fear a recession next year. And many workers are resorting to career cushioning amidst resignation fear. 

Many businesses have already borne the brunt by losing their most valued employees during The Great Resignation. Will the balance of power shift from the employee to the employer as the possibility of a worldwide recession grows? Over 760 global digital companies have fired workers in 2022, some only a few while others like Meta and Twitter fired thousands.

“It is inevitable that the resignation rates will slow as employees opt to stay put with their employers in the face of uncertainty. However, the driving forces behind the great resignation – flexibility and autonomy – will remain a key driver of employee satisfaction. It is important companies do not lose sight of these as they define their business strategy for the next 12-24 months,” says d’Abo.

AI WILL CONTINUE CHANGING THE WORK LANDSCAPE

Automation is becoming mainstream. In the Middle East, more than 60% of respondents to a recent survey said they felt their jobs required specialist training. Most workers surveyed in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE think their country is short on skilled experts. 

Several reports predict that robots may displace around 400-800 million jobs by 2030. However, experts believe all these technologies will support, not replace people. 

“In 2023, some industries will fall by the wayside, and new industries will emerge. In certain areas of work, technology will augment and enhance human abilities. However, it will never replace the things that are and always will be uniquely human—empathy, creative thinking, a smile, a hug, genuine appreciation, and love,” says Dr. Oleg Konovalov, global thought leader, author, consultant, and C-suite coach.

He adds that we may have driverless cars, but we will never have people-less businesses.

As they evolve, AI and automation will impact many parts of work, from regular duties to decision-making. “HR leaders should consider how they can upskill and reskill their workforce to prepare for the future of work and support employees who may be displaced by automation,” says Rohit Manucha, CHRO, Aujan Group Holding. 

“HR leaders should focus on staying up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in the world of work and be proactive in preparing their organizations and their employees for the challenges and opportunities that the future of work may bring,” Manucha adds.

WORKPLACE CULTURE WILL BE THE KEY DIFFERENTIATOR

The last two years have seen significant changes in workplace culture, and as a result, there is a renewed need to concentrate on the fundamentals of what makes employees feel valued at work. No matter where they are located, experts say, employees want to be a part of a greater whole when they join an organization.

According to a study from recruitment company Robert Walters, 73% of professionals in the Middle East have quit their jobs because they didn’t like the work environment. Ironically, about 82% of professionals surveyed had previously worked for a business where they disapproved of the corporate culture.

“Therefore, organizations with a transparent culture in vision and practice would be the key differentiator,” says Krishnan Narayan, Head of HR, Petrotec. “Culture is hard to replicate and improve, unlike technology or commercial prowess, and it takes time for competition to catch up. Companies need to recognize that what they say as a slogan isn’t practiced and move forward to showcasing what they truly practice as a culture.”

Speaking on the talent war, Narayanan says, “HR leaders should translate fundamental values into workplace practices that can be easily adopted, thereby creating a culture that’s hard to replicate by competition.”

DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION TO TAKE CENTER STAGE

Women make up only 6.8% to 10% of senior managers in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, according to a McKinsey report. Moreover, over 85% of GCC-listed businesses have no female board members.  

However, experts say that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) will be one of the major shifts in the region next year, as employers now know that the workers would quit their jobs if their company didn’t value DEI at work. 

“As the workforce becomes more diverse, companies are under more pressure to create inclusive and equitable work environments. HR leaders should focus on developing DEI strategies that address unconscious bias, promote diversity in hiring and promotion, and create a culture of inclusivity and belonging,” says Manucha.

GREATER FLEXIBILITY 

The long-standing five-day workweek might be reconsidered in 2023. Some businesses have already switched to a four- or four-and-a-half-day workweek in the UAE.

“As technology continues to improve and make it easier for people to work from anywhere, more and more companies are likely to adopt remote and flexible work policies. HR leaders should consider how they can support and manage hybrid teams and have the same opportunities for growth and development,” says Manucha.

According to Linkedin, 70% of Middle Eastern professionals are willing to quit their professions due to a lack of flexibility. Even if most managers think that working conditions at their companies have improved, Linkedin’s survey foresees a “flexidus.”

In 2023, according to d’Abo, “employees will increasingly be looking for opportunities with companies that offer such flexibility as an incentive. Those who move first may have the first pick of the best recruits.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hemanshi Tewari is the Senior Correspondent at Fast Company Middle East. She covers work-life, workplace trends, leadership, the future of work, and ideas that create an impact. In her previous stint, she was associated with The Economic Times. When not writing, you’ll find her having a cup of latte while tweeting her mind. More

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