One-third of Gulf companies planning work from home to combat Coronavirus threat

Posted on March 04, 2020

  • Admin and HR professionals most likely to be asked to work remotely

  • Firms in hospitality, aviation and logistics planning redundancies and unpaid leaves

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 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).

Based on the survey results, up to 35% of Gulf-based businesses could soon be asking employees to work from home. This consists of 6% who have just launched work-from-home plans as a result of the recent outbreak, 5% who have confirmed plans being rolled out soon, 12% who are reviewing the concept, combined with a further 12% who already had remote work arrangements prior to the outbreak.

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

Across the region, firms in Bahrain reported the highest rate of remote work plans at 38%. This was followed by Qatar, UAE and Kuwait at 37% each. In Saudi Arabia 30% 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%.

Among firms shifting to remote work, 45% plan to do so universally for all employees. The remainder are applying it selectively for certain job categories – with Admin and HR being the most common functions to be moved to home, while Engineering and Operations receive the least share of remote jobs.

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 organizationally to have staff work from home. By contrast, multinationals surveyed indicated the highest readiness to switch to remote work.

The HR Manager of a multinational company who participated in the survey, said “Our offices in China and Korea are already closed and staff are working from home. We are monitoring the situation in the Gulf in case the same measures become necessary here.”

Some of the executives surveyed by GulfTalent speculated that the push to remote work may fundamentally change how regional businesses operate in the long run, with many retaining elements of remote work even after the current business necessity has ended.

Employer Responses to Outbreak

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.

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% of employers surveyed reported no plans or changes of any kind in response to the outbreak.

Impact of Outbreak on Business

GulfTalent's 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.

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.

GulfTalent’s survey was conducted on 2nd and 3rd of March 2020.

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Comments (7)

Shanavas Pulickal
HR & Admin Officer | Electra Abu Dhabi LLC | UAE

GulfTalent thank you for your valuable survey feedbacks. We have also given circular to our staff and family members to take care and follow the instructions of government authorities.

Posted on 05 Mar 2020

Kemal Hatip
Managing Director | Oncopharma Middle East LLC | UAE

Thank you for such a survey, it is helpful to see companies' different responses to the existing bad situation & better evaluate the options to find the right direction in such cases.

Posted on 05 Mar 2020

Dia Shoukri
Organizational Design Senior Consultant | Tamauzy Consulting | Saudi Arabia

I am expecting some improvement of business for local companies in the Gulf Area as government will depend on local market to get services and products due to restrictions on travel. In field of Consulting, there might be a good chance to hire from local market to complete existing projects and future projects.

Posted on 05 Mar 2020

Maria Pilar Bernardo
Freelancer, home-based | Philippines

I know with the impact of coronavirus, a lot of businesses are shutting down here in the Philippines and even young adults may lose their jobs except those in the BPO's. Working for a home-based job is not a bad idea and some companies are paying well plus it saves a lot of effort, money and time to earn a living. I will actually be working for a home-based job soon.

Posted on 05 Mar 2020

Muhammad Sajid Ghauri
QHSE | DEYAAR FM | UAE

Informative and great survey indeed. it's time to defeat the threat of the fatal virus by adopting measures like distance learning, work at home, remote working and by using extra safety precautions through regular checkup, using of mask and other suitable means of protection. God bless all.

Posted on 08 Mar 2020

Paul Kavalakkat
Head of HSE | Dubai Asset Management | UAE

Your survey is helpful to understand in the macro level the way businesses are responding to the situation and to ensure that good practice is followed in such situations. Thank you GulfTalent for this information.

Posted on 08 Mar 2020

Ahmed AL-Sammak
Managing Director | Royal Axis Company | Kuwait

In the United States many large and well-known companies already have their employees operate from home, so I strongly support the idea.

Posted on 08 Mar 2020

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