Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” This is quote is inspirational for many people, and, indeed, many of you might have even nodded along in affirmation. But, is choosing, or rather, finding a job you love really as simple as it sounds? What makes an ‘ideal’ job perfect? Is it the nature of the work, the industry it operates in and any other positive value it adds to the community alone?
Picture this, let’s say you are passionate about writing and literature, and you graduated from university having attained a degree in literature in your preferred language. You have enjoyed immersing yourself in your passion for years and are excited to break into the working world and put your skills to the test.
You manage to get a job within a few months of graduating as a literature teacher at a local, established school and can impart your knowledge to dozens of students. Your pay is decent for a starting salary and you will have the opportunity of imbuing the same love of literature into a younger nature. Does this alone mean that you have achieved your ideal job?
Let’s add this into the scenario: your direct manager’s management style is vague and stressful. You are never quite sure what they are thinking about you and the feedback you receive is sparse and unclear. Your office is cramped and you aren’t allowed to personalize your classroom. To your dismay, the school doesn’t have advanced technological fixtures such as smartboards and you have to rely mostly on traditional media when planning your lessons. Your workplace lacks diversity and you are surrounded by same-minded people. Now, I will ask another question: is the ideal job comprised of the job alone or do other factors come into play?
The truth is that loving your job role or field of work is not enough and your satisfaction with a job relies on so much more than the role, the pay and the industry. The aspect we will be looking at today is the workplace. How does your work environment impact your job satisfaction and what are the most important attributes of an ideal workplace?
To answer the above questions and more, we’re going to be drawing from a recently published Bayt.com survey, the Bayt.com Ideal Workplace in the Middle East and North Africa Survey, 2018. This survey explores both the relationship between the workplace and job satisfaction and also identifies the key drivers that motivate employees and job seekers like yourself to stay longer in an organization.
Let’s bite into the meat of the research and take a deeper look at the insights gained through the survey.
1. A Creative Flair
Now that we’ve looked at the priorities of job seekers and employees when it comes to their current jobs, let’s look at the attributes of their workplaces. There are different things that come into play when sizing up how great a workplace is. For instance, you could work in a very pretty office, but you find your work environment stifling with little room for creativity, you could find that all your coworkers and yourself share too similar a background and so there is little diversity of thought and perspective, or you might find that your workplace is a little too traditional. Let’s explore these elements in terms of how important they are and how respondents’ current workplaces score in each category.
Whether or not a workplace encourages innovation and creativity is understandably important. There is little you can do in terms of advancing your career and bringing about positive change in your workplace if innovation and creativity isn’t given its true value. Picture being in a meeting discussing the branding of a yearly event, having great ideas to make it different and fresh and being shot down by people who would rather stick to the tried and true than try anything new. This can be frustrating, and it seems that 81% of people in the Middle East share the sentiment that encouraging innovation and creativity is an important workplace attribute. This incidence is higher in Morocco (87%), Jordan (85%), Lebanon and Tunisia (both at 83%).
As for how encouraging of innovation and creativity respondents perceived their current work environment to be, 30% of respondents overall believe their workplace does so. However, this perception is highest in Qatar (43%), UAE (37%) and Bahrain (36%).
2. A Personal Touch
Another important element to consider is the look and feel of the office itself. Having an attractive layout to an office can add a little flair to any employee’s life. Often, drab colors and little cubicles with no room for personalization can prevent people from being comfortable in or growing attached to their space and, by extension, their workplace.
It’s not just me who thinks so! A whopping 71% of respondents believe the design/layout of a workplace is important, and this is especially true for respondents in Morocco (77%), Saudi Arabia (73%) and Algeria (72%). However, when asked about how attractive they felt their current office’s layout was, just over a quarter (28%) of respondents believed this to be the case.
Being able to put picture frames on your desk, maybe drawings done by your children or siblings, certificates and other personal items around your desk can help you feel fonder of your workspace. It can also help employees feel more at home in their work environment and increase their attachment to their place of work. However, only 31% of respondents overall claimed that they were allowed to personalize their workspace.
All of this might sound a little dramatic. At the end of the day, you get a job, go to work every day, come home every evening, rinse and repeat. Does the look of an office really say much about the employer or the job itself? Does it carry any weight with regards to their brand and values?
Layout can reflect the brand and values of an employer. For example, if an employer boasts a particular focus on communication, but has a layout of closed-door offices where everyone is sectioned off from everyone else, then it might be seen as contradictory. And, in fact, 37% of respondents claim the interior design of their office does reflect their company’s brands and values. Though, it is worth pointing out that employers in the UAE (56%), Qatar (52%) and Bahrain (45%) seem to have done a significant job in expressing their brands and values through their layout. The way employees see a company says a lot about the company itself and how successful it is in embodying the brands and values they ascribe by.
As for which layout plans are most preferred by respondents, closed rooms (27%) followed by open plan (22%) are the most preferred office layout plans. Any theories as to why that may be? Share your thoughts in the comments below. I personally feel that the more open an office is and the less knocking I need to do to talk to people, the better.
3. A Flexible Lifestyle
Over the past year, we have observed a trend in employees preferring workplaces with remote work options. For instance, in the Bayt.com Poll: Preferred Work Arrangements in the Middle East and North Africa, nearly eight in ten respondents claimed to prefer companies that offer ‘remote-work options’. Similarly, in the Bayt.com Ideal Workplace Survey, flexibility in the form of providing remote-work options was one of the workplace attributes employees were asked about. When asked about the importance of flexibility, 57% of respondents overall said that it was an important aspect of their workplace. This perception is higher in Lebanon (66%), Morocco (63%), Qatar (63%) and UAE (63%).
Despite flexibility being so important to a majority of MENA respondents, 58% of respondents overall feel that their workplace lacks flexibility. It seems that there is still some ways to go in encouraging flexibility and moving towards a more modern management style that has been proven to have benefits in the workplace.
Whether employers like it or not, the world is changing and moving toward a model that is more flexible and focused on efficiency. If workers can deliver the same or a greater amount of work in an environment outside work, then there should be no argument against flexibility at work. Think about it.
4. Diversity Wanted
Diversity is also considered an important workplace aspect by a majority of respondents across the region (70%). As mentioned earlier, diversity has a lot of positives. It provides a greater amount of perspectives and insights in an office. Its importance can be seen especially in Lebanon and Jordan (both at 74%), as well as in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia (all at 72%).
However, when asked about current diversity, over a quarter of respondents (27%) overall perceived that their workplace encourages diversity. In the UAE (37%), Qatar (35%) and Bahrain (30%), a greater number of respondents believe that their workplace encourages diversity. It is worth noting that there have been increased efforts to promote diversity in the region, some taking the initiative of hiring disabled employees. Additionally, the focus on hiring top female talent has heightened over the past few years.
5. Endless Communication
Another important workplace attribute is communication, an aspect of which is nurturing a trustworthy relationship between employers and employees. The Bayt.com Infographic: Communication at Work in the Middle East, March 2017, revealed that a vast majority of 91.4% of respondents prefer a job where they can communicate freely and frequently.
Transparent communication is considered important by 80% of respondents across the region. This belief is significantly high in Morocco (88%). At the same time, only 34% of respondents believe that their company communicates transparently with their employees. While this number is not bad, and indicates that a large number of respondents do enjoy transparent communication in their workplace, there is certainly room for improvement. In Bahrain (47%), Qatar (45%) and UAE (42%), a greater number of respondents perceive that their organization maintains transparent communication with their employees.
Following the same theme of communication and relationships in the workplace, over a quarter (27%) of respondents believe their company promotes team-building and fun activities. In Qatar (44%), UAE (38%) and Bahrain (33%), this perception is the highest compared to other countries in the region.
Another workplace attribute held in high regard and that relates to communication is fair evaluation, believed by 81% of respondents to be important. This is especially true in Jordan and Morocco (both at 85%).
6. Material Matters
Remember the example in the beginning of the introduction where I mentioned smartboards? Good, because you’re going to need it now. We live in an age driven by technology and technology has paved the way for us to do the same tasks easier, more effectively and with greater creativity. Even if you aren’t working as a teacher, there are many job roles in which the latest technology matters. Imagine working mostly on a computer that’s outdated, both in terms of hardware and software, and how inefficient that would be. And indeed, more than eight in ten (83%) of respondents across the region believe that promoting the use of advanced technology is an important workplace attribute.
Nearly two fifths (39%) of respondents noted that their employers do promote the use of advanced technology in the workplace. Again, this perception was especially prevalent in the Gulf, particularly in Qatar (50%), UAE (46%) and Bahrain (44%). These numbers indicate that while we do have covered some distance in using and promoting technology in the workplace, there are some countries that have already stepped ahead of the curve and others with unlimited opportunities to use the same technology in new and exciting ways.
What the survey showed us all is that when looking for a job, there are many things you should look out for in order to find ‘the one’. There is a slight gap to be observed between what many professionals desire and what they feel they are receiving, but with time, adaptation and change brought about by talented MENA professions like yourself, the MENA workplace is bound to evolve until it closely resembles the Middle Eastern ideal.
Now that you have a more comprehensive idea on what makes an ideal job and a workplace, it’s time to scrutinize organizations and potential career opportunities. You have over 10,000 jobs to choose from on Bayt.com alone. So, take your time and be sure to do your research. Even if you have to settle for something less than perfect, you should make the most out of it and continue actively looking for better opportunities.
This article originally appeared in Bayt.com. This article and all other intellectual property on Bayt.com is the property of Bayt.com. Reproduction of this article in any form is only permissible with written permission from Bayt.com.
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