“With remote working, there are many obstacles one needs to adapt to. For instance, as we are all working in some form of isolation. We need to book online meetings for every little thing — you do not have the luxury of having colleagues around to talk to. Otherwise, you have to make do with whatever equipment you have at home, whereas you are used to having all this at the office,” said Nikola Aksentijevic, 41, consumer sales head at technology firm, Epson. “Working hours seems to be longer and family time has gotten shorter. A a result, [work stress] can just build up to much more than usual,” the Serbian expat added.
No social relief
In an office setting, people often relieve their stress and frustrations by sharing a cup of coffee, or going out for a quick lunch. Those working from home are, however, unable to manage this. “What I miss the most is interacting with my colleagues and my team in person. While we are continuing to communicate through video conferences and phone calls, this is not the same feeling as being present in person. In the office, we are used to having our morning coffee together and discussing our workday,” said Majd Sinan, country manager at cybersecurity firm, Trend Micro. The 52-year-old Syrian has been working from home since March, like many other members of the UAE workforce.
No work-life balance
Unable to share
As the search for a COVID-19 vaccine continues, it seems more and more likely that the work-from-home model will be widely used in the UAE at least till the end of the year, if not longer. With working professionals reporting unprecedented levels of stress, sleep deprivation and burnout — even in the absence of the commute to and from work — it seems like a good idea for employers to also be flexible, and to seek to understand the challenges remote working has entailed, some residents said.
An Asian engineer who declined to be named said that employers definitely need to be more accommodating. “It is difficult to get things fully quiet at home because my children are so young. So during meetings, this just adds to my stress and anxiety. Given that I also have a lot more work now, and because layoffs have become commonplace to keep pace with the financial challenges, all of this is creating a lot of stress. I just hope my bosses can be more understanding,” he said.
For others, the support of family has been essential to make the workday easier.
Rajesh Balachandran, 41, regional sales manager at an electronics firm, said his workplace had been shifting to an agile work model for more than a year. “Because we have been doing this for a while now, including working from home four days a month, this transition has not been as much of a jolt for me. I try to treat myself as if I am at work during working hours, and even if I cannot find a separate room, I try to settle myself in a place that is less busy. At the same time, as this becomes the new norm, employers do have to grow to understand the practical challenges of working remotely, such as a crying child during a meeting, or technical concerns that take longer to resolve,” he said.
Naziha Niyan Anas, 37, a Sri Lankan mother-of-three, said she keeps meals prepared for her husband and three boys. “I prepare ahead, and keep my youngest son — aged four — engaged and away from my husband’s meetings in the hope that this will be of some help,” she said.