Almost three quarters of the region’s professionals, 72%, believe that telecommuting is a good idea for both the employer and employee, according to the Middle East’s number one job site Bayt.com in its latest poll series. According to the results, a total of 87% of job seekers said that telecommuting was beneficial, with just 12% stating it was not a good idea. However, of those that cited it as beneficial, some were split as to who actually benefits: 8% said it was beneficial for the employee but not for the employer, while the remaining 7% said the reverse was true; that telecommuting was beneficial for the employer but not the employee.
When asked how telecommuting would benefit the region’s employees, 44% of respondents agreed that it was a mixture of providing a good work-life balance, promoting more productivity, and encouraging staff loyalty. Almost a third, 32% said that its advantage was solely due to the fact that it allowed employees to secure a good work-life balance, and 12% said that it was because it inspired greater productivity. Just 5% agreed that the main advantage of telecommuting was the fact that it promoted company loyalty.
The ‘Telecommuting in the Middle East Workplace’ October/November online poll series conducted by Bayt.com sought to understand from employees whether they believe telecommuting is beneficial in the Middle East, what the perceived advantages of telecommuting are, and how widespread its use is in the region.
Interestingly, respondents were divided over who they think would be able to telecommute. For the most part, 40% of respondents agreed that self disciplined employees with excellent performance records would be able to telecommute, while another 18% agreed that employees who do not have to interact face-to-face with customers or colleagues would suit telecommuting. A further 11% said that telecommuting would suit working mothers, while another 24% of respondents said that telecommuting would be ideal for all three of these groups.
“It is interesting that so many of the region’s respondents feel that telecommuting would be most suited to employees that are self-motivated and good workers presumably because of the perception that with telecommuting comes a number of distractions mainly when working from home and also from the idea that without the watchful eye of a boss or other colleagues, some employees would not always be inclined to work,” commented Lama Ataya, Head of Marketing and Corporate Communication at Bayt.com. “On the other hand, the region’s job seekers also perceive that telecommuting works for those people that already work individually, suggesting there would be no point in telecommuting if employees still have to work in a team, or service clients.”
Asked what they perceive the secret to be behind successful telecommuting, an overwhelming 52% said that it is a combination of clear guidelines between the employer and employee, trustworthy employees who are capable of working well independently, supportive management who will oversee and guide the telecommuting system, and a proper training programme for the employer and employee in new procedures. Another 16% said that clear guidelines in themselves are the most important priority, followed by trustworthy employees at 10%, a proper training programme at 9% and supportive management at 8%.
When it came down to it, employees have a number of concerns about telecommuting and more than a quarter, 27%, cited the main concern as underperforming in their work due to no direct mentoring. Interestingly, a fifth had concerns about the capability of their boss to manage them from a distance, and another fifth said that they were concerned about their absence from the office having a detrimental effect on their career development opportunities. Feeling isolated with lack of contact with colleagues was a key concern to 11% of the respondents, while at the other end of the spectrum, 10% of respondents were concerned that they would end up overworking, because of the lack of distinction between their home and office.
“Overall, the feedback from the poll vis-à-vis telecommuting concerns suggests that employees are very conscientious and want to ensure they are still doing a good job, but doubt either their individual capabilities, or those of their boss,” commented Ataya. “Furthermore, the results perhaps highlight that there exists a ‘fear of the unknown’ with regard to telecommuting, as a significant proportion cite career development, isolation and overworking as potential problems with its use.”
A further poll asked the professionals to what extent telecommuting exists within their organisations, if at all. Almost a half of the respondents, 47%, said that telecommuting is allowed or supported within their organisation, while 18% said that their organisation does not either allow or support it. 15% of employees stated that telecommuting is sometimes allowed, depending on the situation of the employee while 10% said that telecommuting doesn’t exist in their workplaces, but they think their company should start considering it. Just 2% of respondents said that their company doesn’t currently use telecommuting, but management is currently considering it.
“That almost a fifth of the region’s workplaces do not support telecommuting might not be a reflection of organisational reluctance, rather it might be that certain industries simply will not benefit from it. Telecommuting has been shown around the world to be highly useful to many types of organisations, but as with any new service or technology - one size does not fit all,” said Ataya.
Bayt.com’s monthly polls aim to shed light on various aspects of the region’s workplaces, by questioning those working right in the heart of various industries around the region. “By shedding light on important topics like telecommuting, we can highlight the concerns and opinions that employees may have, while providing organisations throughout the Middle East insightful data that they can use for assessing whether such a solution would also work for them, in addition to what major factors they would need to consider before, during and after its implementation,” concluded Ataya.
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