Two-thirds of business leaders comfortable but not fully ready for the ‘new normal’

As organizations are trying to adapt workforce models for the ‘new normal’, almost all (95%) business leaders in the UAE and Saudi Arabia state that they are comfortable with the broad-scale shift toward remote work. Whilst there’s been digital investment in the region during the last few years, according to the Riverbed Future of Work Global Survey 2020, over two-thirds (68%) of UAE and Saudi organizations were not completely prepared to support remote working when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Rich McBee, President and CEO of Riverbed

“Businesses had already been accommodating more remote workers the past several years, but COVID-19 is accelerating this, and the office of the future will clearly look very different with a more flexible and hybrid workplace,” said Rich McBee, President and CEO of Riverbed. “This new study shows that business leaders are now much more comfortable with their teams working remotely, however, organizations must have the right technology in place to ensure greater productivity and a better remote experience as employees increasingly work from anywhere.”

Performance Issues Have Impacted Employees and the Business

Nearly all (97%) of the business leaders surveyed in the UAE and Saudi Arabia reported that technology performance issues impact the experience of their remote workers. The most common issues – all resolvable – include: frequent disconnects from corporate networks (43%), slow file downloads (41%), apps not working properly (40%), and long response times when loading apps (39%). When asked about the impact these issues have on the remote work experience of employees, business leaders report: increased technical disruptions or difficulties (44%), weaker employee performance and lack of productivity (41%), lack of clarity on strategic priorities (37%), and reduced direct services to customers or clients (37%).

Barriers to Success of a High Performing Remote Workforce
UAE and Saudi business leaders say the biggest barriers to success for ensuring the performance of a remote workforce are: training or manager support (43%), the need for software or technology to optimize or improve performance (40%), and the need for better visibility into network and application performance (37%).

Remote and Flexible Workforces Expected to Increase Significantly

Despite challenges, more than one in five (22%) UAE and Saudi business leaders expect half or more of their employees to work remotely (full time or at least half time) after COVID-19. Additionally, on average, these business leaders expect 28% of employees to work remote after COVID-19. Globally, industries projecting the largest average percentage of their teams to work remote after COVID-19 are those less dependent on physical presence, including financial services (39% vs. 28% before the outbreak) and professional services (35% vs. 28%).

Business Leaders Investing In Technology for Remote Workforce Performance

To drive greater remote working performance, the large majority (79%) of UAE and Saudi business leaders plan to make additional technology investments – and 41% plan to make significant investments – in the next 12 months. These business leaders have already begun to identify their priority strategies and technologies to enhance remote work for their employees and their company. The top initiatives regional business decision-makers plan to undertake in the next two years include:

• updating company-wide remote workplace strategies and policies (48%)
• deploying technology to automate remote network operations (47%)
• re-evaluating and/or re-architecting the IT environment (46%)
• gaining better visibility of network and application performance (45%)

Middle East business leaders expect to gain long-term benefits for their employees and bottom line as a result of increasing their remote workforce, including: better work-life balance (56)%; increases in employee retention (48%), savings from office space and related costs (48%); better use of technology 48%.