When the pandemic struck in early 2020, millions of professionals wondered how they’d cope working from home. Fast forward to mid-2021, and it’s a different story. Now, millions of professionals are wondering how they’ll cope with a return to the office. 

Before we label this the “remote work revolution,” a note of caution. Not everyone wants to work from home, and many organizations believe in offices and other shared workplaces, believing that they foster in-person collaboration and strong team morale. Likewise, the dream of relocating to some scenic locale with a laptop and an internet connection is just one aspiration among many. Plenty of professionals are happy where they are, while those who plan to relocate have diverse reasons for doing so. 

To dig deeper, Michael Page Middle East surveyed around 161 job seekers based in Saudi Arabia from mid-March to mid-May to understand how work and lifestyle expectations are changing in the new normal. 

How do Job Applicants in Saudi Arabia feel about relocating for work in the future?

Remote working: a successful experiment?

If a professional’s ability to relocate depends on their ability to work remotely, our survey has good news for anyone contemplating a move. Nearly 8 out of 10 of Michael Page candidates polled believed they could fulfill their tasks or responsibilities remotely. For their part, it seems that employers are increasingly comfortable working with dispersed teams, with 50% of respondents reporting a spike in the number of roles advertised with remote work as part of the package, but equally 45% reporting to have seen no difference. 

Questioned as to whether remote work would impact salaries and benefits, a clear majority (65%) agreed that it would have a positive impact and 27% thinking it would have no impact. Most of the respondents (40%) said they do not see a connection between remote work and salaries and benefits while 34% predicted that home-based workers would receive more targeted benefits like reimbursements of internet and electricity payments.

The other 27% saw the glass as half empty, highlighting perks and benefits home workers would lose, such as lunch allowances, company cars and fewer company events, to name a few.

And what about the candidate appetite for temporary positions due to the COVID crisis? Most of our Saudi Arabia based job applicants (86%) still demonstrate a preference for permanent positions. However, 57% of respondents said they would consider interim positions. Only 19% said they would consider temporary positions. 

A workforce on the move

How does the explosion in flexible working opportunities align with relocation rates? Nearly 12% of respondents said they had relocated since the start of the pandemic. Almost 60% claimed they were planning a move — 14% within the next 12 months and 46% sometime in the future. That compares with 29% who said they had no intention of leaving their current location.

Does more flexible working mean more relocation? The survey suggests that’s too simplistic. People don’t only consider relocation only because technology allows them to. Perhaps the experience of COVID has made them reevaluate their lifestyle priorities? The aspiration to work in an economically more dynamic area came up as the most popular reason for 58% of job applicants considering a relocation. 50% said they want to relocate for a better quality of life (e.g. to access improved healthcare and community spaces). 21% were drawn to the idea of being closer to nature. 

A similarly complex picture of post-COVID aspirations emerged when we asked respondents how relocation would change their employment conditions. 38% said they would only relocate for an equivalent role, nearly aligned with 40% who would look for a job in a different industry. Interestingly, 65% of those polled said relocation would boost their salaries. Others weren’t looking for a promotion or even a new job, including 23% who would be prepared to reenter education or long-term training and 8% who would intend on starting their own company. 

When asked why job applicants in Saudi Arabia would not consider a relocation, 63% responded they wanted to continue living close to their family and friends, followed by 50% who said that they are happy to be based at home in Saudi Arabia where they currently live and many, even own a property. 

In a year, we should have a better idea of whether relocation aspirations are a short-term reaction to the stresses of COVID or a long-term consequence of the remote working boom. In the meantime, this survey suggests that quality of life and career development considerations drive relocation just as much as flexible working practices do.

If you would like to talk to one of our expert consultants about how Michael Page can help you find the right talent for your organization, or to talk about the results of our latest survey, get in touch today. 

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