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Flexible options good for both staff and company.

Dubai: Flexible working is now becoming a major deciding factor among job applicants when choosing a potential employer in the Middle East, a new research found.

According to Regus, a global workplace provider, seven in every 10 employees (74 per cent) in the region would choose one job over another if it offered flexible work options.

More than half (54 per cent) of the respondents said they would go as far as turning down a job offer that rules out non-traditional work arrangements.

The findings of the study, which canvassed 20,000 respondents worldwide between November and December 2013, were released last Sunday.

It makes a strong case for businesses to offer a flexible approach to work in order to keep talented staff.

Employee turnover is a common problem among many companies in the region. Some managers said that by introducing flexible schemes, organisations can improve employee retention, staff well-being, and the company's bottom line at the same time.

Flexible schemes can include working in a loose schedule or reduced office hours, as well as working from home.

"Flexible working has many advantages. It improves level of job satisfaction, reduces stress and improves quality of life. Companies should note that by offering flexible work arrangements, it doesn't only lead to more loyal staff, but also to less employee churn," Kory Thompson, UAE country manager at Regus, told Gulf News.

In Regus' survey, a majority of the respondents (71 per cent) said they believe that flexible working helps improve staff retention. More than 65 per cent pointed to improved company loyalty as another positive outcome.

While some companies have implemented policies that enable staff to more effectively combine work with family life, not too many businesses in the region are open to flexible working.

"This is very rare in any market. There are some companies that offer this but it is usually for businesses that can operate from remote locations," said Helena Houia, principal consultant at Talent2, a recruitment specialist.

Houia said it would take a certain type of leadership, relationship, professional talent, structure, strategic objectives and core business operation for flexible work arrangements to be sustainable. "[But] I think it can work in some businesses and for some people," she added.

Camilla d'Abo, managing partner at communications agency Dabo & Co, recently allowed their employees to work flexible hours and from home, following a feedback gathered through a grading scheme by Great Place to Work Institute (GPTWI). The institute ranked Dabo & Co last year as one of the top small and medium enterprises to work for in the UAE.

In the first option, workers can choose to come in early or late on Sundays and Thursdays.

"The reason for this is because some people have to travel from Sharjah where they have traffic issues," d'Abo told Gulf News.

The second scheme allows certain staff, including account managers, to apply for one day a month to work from home.

"You really need to have that kind of day where there are no meetings or no destructions so you can focus on doing some research," she added.

While it's still early to tell whether the new policy has improved productivity levels, d'Abo said she's positive that it will further boost staff retention.

"Retention is very tough and it can be costly to rehire and retrain. That's why we try and get the best talent and when you've got that, you want to ensure that they enjoy the environment and stay ultimately," d'Abo said.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Jan 21, 2014
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