The COVID-19 pandemic sped up the integration of many things in the working environment, from digitalisation to flexible working hours, from remote recruitment to virtual teambuilding. It also highlighted that although home office was productive for those who felt they could do their jobs from their homes, this was not true for everyone – and in fact, many people wanted to return to the workplace. 

As per responses by 1,109 job applicants based in the Middle East to a survey run by Michael Page Middle East between October and November 2020, a majority 91%said their employers provided them with a clearly defined and safe way to return to the office, and 40%were also given the freedom of choice to return to their workplace or continue working remotely. 

31% of job applicants were asked to return full time, comparing to 14% who were asked to return to their workplace for between 1-4 days per week and 15% who were given options on their return. 

In general, a majority 70% of job applicants in the Middle East were satisfied at the prospect of returning to their workplace, with 31% neutral and only 3% dissatisfied, highlighting that people do want to return to ‘normality’, even if remote, or work from home is possible. 

Interestingly, 17% of job applicants in the Middle East are worried about keeping their jobs for the next 6 months, and 18% beyond 12 months. 57% job applicants currently in employment across the region were confident about keeping their jobs for the next 6 months, with that figure at 53% who were confident about keeping their role for the next 12 months. 

How has employer / employee communication developed during the pandemic? 

Over the course of the pandemic, employers had to communicate in different ways and on different topics to their employees, and this has, in some cases, led to issues for their workforce. 

For example, 70% of job applicants said their company facilitated working from home well and 60% were given clear directions on adapting to these new practises and processes, meaning they found these communications clear and easy to follow. 

However, when it comes to communicating on the financial health and current company reality, the number of satisfied people slightly drops to 56%, with 27% feeling neutral – and 17% dissatisfied. These figures closely tally with job applicants’ feelings about company communications on their vision of the future post lockdown/pandemic. 

Here, 56% were satisfied, with 24% feeling neutral, and 20% dissatisfied. This highlights the difficulties companies have found in being able to understand what the future will look like, explaining it to their workforce – and the impact the health crisis had on short, medium and long-term planning. 

Are job applicants applying for roles in their sector or in new sectors? 

Many industries felt the impact of the health crisis more than others. In the Middle East, the tourism, hospitality and aviation sectors, for example, were hugely impacted and continue to be. Could this be one of the reasons 26% of job applicants in October and November were applying for any open role, in any sector? 

With 59% of applicants staying in their sector for their job search, we are not at a tipping point yet for people moving industry. However, that 9% of applicants also changed sector (but maintaining same function/role), could the world of work be moving to a more liquid structure, at least in terms of industry or sector loyalty? 

Michael Page Middle East consultants can help businesses understand the benefits of bringing talent into their team from a new sector. And if employers decide to follow the path to new hires from outside a sector, they may need to interview for skills – new and old. Get in touch with Michael Page Middle East here.

Results are derived from a Michael Page survey ran in October – November 2020 which received 1,109 responses from job applicants based across the Middle East region.