Dubai: Conventional wisdom holds that when workers are engaged with their work, they exhibit passion and go the extra mile to be productive. An engaged employee is therefore an asset to any company, as they can ultimately drive up quality and profitability.
But do UAE employees really enjoy their work? If one research were to be believed, there aren’t that many who truly do.
Based on the data collected by Steelcase with global research firm Ipsos from 12,480 workers in 17 countries, only two in ten (20 per cent) workers in the UAE are engaged in their jobs. That’s fewer than the number of committed employees in India (29 per cent) and Mexico (22 per cent).
However, there aren’t many enthusiastic workers in other job markets either, with the average size of engaged workers worldwide representing only 13 per cent of the population.
But what really drives people to work harder and produce great results? Is it high salary or bonus? Is it constant fear of losing their jobs? Or is it great wokplace culture?
For Michelle, who has been working as a front-desk staff at a company in Dubai for more than five years now, it is the lack of career growth prospects that’s bringing her down.
“Honestly, I don’t feel engaged in my work anymore because every day feels like a routine and there is no challenge. I feel like I’m stagnant in my job,” she said. “There is no productivity to speak of. There’s no career growth.”
For Jenny Mangalo (name changed), who works for a legal firm, the sense of job security that she gets in her current role, coupled with the prospect that one day she will move on to a higher position, is keeping her upbeat.
“Being given the opportunity to work at an established organisation, with the right amount of pressure, and the many [lessons I encounter] on a daily basis provide much motivation for me to love my work,” she said.
Some HR specialists said there are many other contributing factors that make employees feel disconnected from their jobs. The state of their well-being and personal lives can have a strong impact as well.
“Modern life is taking its toll on employees and leaving them overwhelmed, stressed out, and depleted. That has a major impact on how engaged and productive people are both on and off the job,” said Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin Pulse, in a press statement.
However, according to Steelcase, the issue has something to do with the office environment. Employees become passionate about their jobs not just when they feel valued by the company, but also when they are happy with the “various aspects” of their workplace.
The company said things as basic as an office layout – or how desks and other office furniture are arranged – could greatly influence employee engagement levels.
Providing a great office environment is more than just about aesthetics, however, as they must help employees feel connected, in control, relaxed and focused.
“As we analysed [the data] it was interesting to us how consistently the most engaged workers were those who had more control over their work experience, including the ability to concentrate easily and work in teams without being interrupted,” said Christine Congdon, director of research communications at Steelcase.
“Workers who have the ability to choose where they wish to work in the office based on the task they have to do are much more engaged in the work they do.”
In order to increase employee engagement, therefore, companies should pay attention to individual workspaces and find out how these affect employees’ wellbeing and behavior.
Andy Morris, head of sales, Middle East, at Steelcase, said there is no one-size-fits-all approach, saying that one office layout, for example, may work for some employees but discourage the others.
“Offices of the future should be designed to support the physical, cognitive and emotional wellbeing of their employees, with technology serving as an enabler instead of a hinderer that chains people to their desks,” Morris told Gulf News.
“This might mean giving workers the opportunity to move and change posture throughout the day, the ability to choose where they want to work based on their need to focus or do creative work, either individually or in teams, or the chance to rejuvenate and build connections with people in a social setting. Based on our research, organizations that offer a broader range of spaces – for collaboration, socializing, focus, rejuvenation and privacy – tend to have more engaged employees.
“We believe that workplaces should be created as an ecosystem of places that support a palette of posture, presence and privacy, allowing people to have choice and control over their work environment – temperature, sight lines, light, noise levels.”