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 team building. 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. 

Supporting this, a majority 90% of employers provided their employees with a clearly defined and safe way to return to the office, and 38% also gave their employees the freedom of choice to return to their workplace or not. 

31% of job applicants were asked to return full time, comparing to 17% 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 66% of job applicants 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 home office, work is possible. 

This could come from the fact that 52% of our job applicants currently in employment were confident about keeping their jobs for the next 6 months, with that figure at 30% who were confident about keeping their role for the next 12 months. However, 18% were worried about keeping their job for the next 6 - 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, 69% of job applicants said their company facilitated working from home well and 59% 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 drops to 54%, with 26% feeling neutral – and 20% dissatisfied. This figure tallies with job applicants’ feelings about company communications on their vision of the future post lockdown/pandemic. 

Here, 56% were satisfied, with 28% feeling neutral, and 15% 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 UAE, the tourism, hospitality and aviation sectors, for example, were hugely impacted and continue to be. Could this be one of the reasons 32% of job applicants in October and November were applying for any open role, in any sector? 

With 52% of applicants staying in their sector for their job search, we are not at a tipping point yet for people moving industry. However, that 10% of applicants also changed sector (and not role as well), could the world of work be moving to a more liquid structure, at least in terms of sector loyalty? 

Our Michael Page Middle East consultants can help you understand the benefits of bringing talent into your team from a new sector. And if you decide to follow the path to new hires from outside your sector, you may need to interview for skills – new and old. Feel free to get in touch with one of our experts today by contacting our local office.

Results are derived from a survey we ran in October – November 2020 which received 739 responses from job applicants based in the United Arab Emirates.