By Rouquia Alami
It is a new trend when asking people what do you do for living: they would say proudly the name of the employer and would add and “I work from home”.
Working from home is an attraction and a dream for many employees that combine modernity and professionalism in the Business World. Although it is magnetism but still, as any other duties in business, have its negatives and or positives.
As a hot issue that is spreading worldwide, I chose this, to cover and deal with the topic in all its aspects’. This is relieved only by interviewing professionals, employers, employees, human resources point of views, over and above the legal rights entitlements and obligations for staff working from home and their managers’.
Dr. Qasim Abu Eid, Assistant professor in Banking and Financial Management, worked in Jordan Universities, Business & Office Practice specialist, acting head of Research & Development, currently is a Dean for Amman Training College.
His specialized opinion about working from home was diversity of history and an overview of this assignment. He said to AWM:
“The idea of working from home is not new, going back many years ago, historically, many worked their business primarily from home or close to it, for example farmers, artisans, craftsmen and seamstresses. Years ago, doctors and professionals did business from a home environment. Our history shows families were close-knit and home-based, often homeschooling children as they participated in the family business. In these days millions of people are working at home.
The main advantages of working from home are: allowing workers a choice in where and how they work can increase employee loyalty and job satisfaction, and may reduce turnover, based on that the productivity of the worker will be increased.
If we look at the criticisms of this idea that working from home can increase feelings of isolation and that can impact how workers feel about themselves, their work, and their personal lives. The results of some studies show that there aren’t yet clear data on how this impacts wages and promotions—which can leave many employees feeling hesitant about committing to the work, in addition to that not having colleagues around can also impact the perception of a workers commitment and dampen the creativity that comes from random workplace interactions.”
From the point of view of an employee working from home: F.A. living in Abu Dhabi and working at an international organization as regional director of communications in Middle East, she thinks that this type of job to work from home has its advantages and disadvantages:
Her comments to AWM were:
“Luckily I don’t consider myself as exclusively working from home as my job includes travelling and requires me to attend several meetings on a weekly basis. I also have an office that I use when needed.
However, I do control my timing and have flexibility in my working hours. I have been working for around 12 years; and the past 2.5 years my job’s nature has been totally different. I do enjoy it, but with those circumstances I am almost 24 hours alerted and connected to my email.
Due to the time difference between United States and UAE I do attend conference calls during midnight. What I like about it is the flexibility of my working hours, and the opportunity to spend more time with my son and the family. However, with such circumstances employee engagement would be a challenge that requires both the organization and the employee to deal with it the right way.
Such circumstances could work ideally with some women, but not everyone. A woman with a defined career plan in a leadership position would rather work in an office physically even if she may sacrifice the time she may spend with her family. I wouldn’t recommend such a career woman to take a job at home, just for the sake of staying at home with kids. It could be that this same woman who would work physically on pre-defined working hours to spend more quality time with her kids compared to when working remotely exclusively from home. At the end, it really depends on the woman’s desire, plan, and her ability to manage her time between home and work. Cons for some women are pros for another and vice versa.”
A couple of friends who work in the United States and both work from home, I asked them for their feedback on this matter, and here are some observations they shared:
As far as how work from home started, it is very difficult to figure out how it became popular but it is not a new concept. It has been around in many forms for a long time.
Example, some companies have allowed people who work for call centers (Customer services or sales representatives), travel professionals, and financial advisors, and the like, to work from home.
In recent decades, maybe the advances in technology helped the trend; voice, video, other meeting and collaboration technologies make it possible for employees to work remote.
Also, maybe environmental concerns influenced the concept as people are more sensitive to the environment; work from home leads to less carbon and other greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere when employees work remote from home and not commute. For employers, having an employee work remote may be less costly as they do not have to keep office space, parking, and other office services for the employee.
Possible benefits: For Employers:
- Less sick and personal leave taken by employees.
- Makes possible to retain good employees who aren’t able to move closer to the office. This in theory would cut down on turnover and related hiring and training costs of new employees;
- Allows the employers to obtain good talent by not restricting themselves geographically of hiring people who are within reasonable commute time to the office; they can hire a top talent even from another stateand/or country;
- Reduction in related costs of office space, related utilities, parking spaces, and other services employers have to provide to the employees in the office;
- Increased employee morale and job satisfaction as the flexibility of working from home provides the employee a better environment to balance work and life;
- Improved employee productivity as there may be less interruptions by fellow employees.
For (Employee) point of views:
- Flexibility gives a sense of work – life balance; this makesstaff member less stressed and more satisfied with job.
- Savingmoney on clothing and commuting expenses (public transportation or personal car used to commute);
- No need tohave to sit in for hours in traffic; this way one feels more productive as instead of waiting in traffic, would already be at desk working.
- Makes one feels good, by not commuting,avoid emitting harmful gases from car, to the atmosphere, which is better for the environment.
- Helpscontrol work space by having chosen surrounding for furniture, lighting, and room
- It makes it harder to separate emotionally home life from work; sometimes hard to tell when the work day ends as the environment at home still feels like a work environment;
- Makes communications with colleagues trickier asone can’t see their body language when talking with staff on the phone;
- Sometimesthe employee feel isolated as interactions become limited.
Example: No outing with colleagues for lunch or coffee breaks; therefore such kind of job limit socialization.
- Working from home also takes some of the feeling of comrade/brotherhood away especially with team type projects.
According to Dr. Ayman Murad a Management and Information Technology Specialist working in one of the UN organizations based in Amman; one of his main duties is developing partnerships and promoting the use of ICT as a tool for learning; asking him what was the idea behind creating such a job to work from home? How it was formed? He said:
The idea of working from home came from the need to make the right balance between home and job requirements following the increasing use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and the need to control and reduce the cost of operations.
How does the employer guarantee that the employee is working while out of sight?
This is a challenge! But I think that that there should be an agreement on the estimated time to complete the job at home and based on the results achieved the assessment can be made.
Why some local and international organizations reject the idea of allowing staff to work from home?
Well, there might be several reasons for that and one of them the readiness in thinking for this approach and the lake of trust between staff and management bearing in mind that not all the jobs can be performed from home.”
In conclusion Dr. Murad said: “Life work balance has many benefits for individual and organizations and they should invest more efforts in re-engineering the current working system to enable the balance between home and job requirements.”
It was important to see the point of view of the employer about such job:
AWM interviewed Najwan Khatib a Human Resources Manager in one of the oldest and biggest Inbound Tour Operators in Jordan.
What is the point of view of working from home from the manager/hirer point of view? When do you hire people to work from home? And why then this decision is taken?
To invest in the rare talents of our market, especially if this talent is unable to join the official working hours in the company for undeniable & compelling personal matters and the company is willing to make the exception for this person.
We take into consideration the following when we take this rare decision:
Person is reliable, is responsible, is honest and is passionate about the job.
If a person does not hold such qualities, then this is bound to fail since there would be no absolute dedication and thus no productivity and could cause major problems at work (in our case with clients).
What are the advantages and the disadvantages for the employer?
Investing in talent that will ultimately bring in revenue to the company, sustain our image and reputation in the market. In addition the employee would be comfortable in his work surroundings and thus produce more.
The person will not be able to interact with his colleagues and experience the daily work issues and challenges and how these issues are resolved. This person would be disconnected from his team & supervisor from a humane perspective.
And how does make it good for the employee to work from home?
It depends on the situation. In most cases the woman has the exception since she needs to raise a family and also provide for her home.
As for the men, they do not have the burden of raising the children as a mother and thus working from home is not a thought that crosses his mind.
Is the idea of working from home acceptable in the Jordanian & Arab societies?
In Jordan, unfortunately not, as we still do not have the trust that people would be responsible in working from home. We still do not rely on a person to be a “leader” versus being just an “employee”.
The market is very challenging. It is difficult as it is now to find people who are passionate about work and who are willing to work very hard to build a career and to be successful. In Jordan, the road is still long for us to adapt what some countries and companies do which is “flexy working hours”. It is already difficult to have them be responsible in our regular working hours and days.
According to Enas Qawas a single mother for a 10 years old daughter living in Dubai, working with CISCO; she works from home when possible; she thinks that this type of job to work from home has its advantages and disadvantages; She states:
Working from home is indeed a privilege especially for working mothers who juggle work, home, amongst many other aspects of life on daily basis. It provides more stability to her kids and a better domestic environment. Also on a professional front it could provide more productivity to her company by catering to her role where she has no pressure showing up to work and save time from being distracted of the surroundings; traffic and other distractions being away from her house.
On the other hand this privilege can be abused by many and as a result productivity levels can decrease if it’s in the wrong hands.
Also other family members must respect and adapt that the working wife /mother / daughter need to have her own privacy and help provide that necessary environment and support when it is needed.
In general I strongly agree that “Working from Home” can provide a very balanced life for those who are lucky to have that option that will definitely add a great return for both her employer and her family only if it was managed well.
In conclusion we had to seek the legal point of view: Arab Woman Magazine contacted Hana Al Khatib, a lawyer at Global Advocates & Legal Consultants in Abu Dhabi who works in office:
We asked her about the benefits and the disadvantages of working from home and what are the legal rights for the employee who works from home:
Employment law is the body of law and rules that governs the relationship between the employer and the employee, so it will be the law that should be reviewed when answering the above question.
Article 1 of the UAE Labor Law No. 8 for the year 1980:
“defines the employer to be any natural or legal person employing one or more workers in return for any kind of wage, whereas the worker is defined to include any male or female working for a wage of any kind whatsoever, in the service or under the management or control of an employer, albeit out of his sight; which means the place of where is the work is taking place is irrelevant as long as the worker-employee is working under the supervision, management and control of the employer.”
Accordingly, it is to be interpreted that the provisions of the Labor Law apply on the employees working from home, i.e. the legal rights and obligations of both the employer and employee would be the same in both instances whether the employee is working from home or at the company’s premises. The rights and obligations in relation to working hours, probation period, leave, the employment of juveniles and women, medical insurance, visas and permissions, termination of contracts, end of service benefits, occupational diseases, safety, work related injuries and death, and any aspect that is covered by the Labor Law shall be applicable even when the employee is working from home.
- Working fromHome Policy: The employer shall create a policy that is applicable to employees working from home to regulate the relationship with the employee and to control working hours, leave, confidential information, the ownership of the equipment, deadlines, productivity, attending meetings when needed, the process of calling back the employee to work from the office, and termination. The employer may prepare for homeworkers a training plan as well.
- NewContract: although not necessary but it is advisable that in the event that an existing employee is to be assigned to work from home; to negotiate a new contract or an addendum to the original employment contract between the employee and the employer to reflect this new arrangement stating the place where the employee will be based, the supply of the necessary equipment, the ownership and the prohibition of private use of such equipment, the arrangement and payments of telephone calls and internet connection, the other terms and conditions is to remain unchanged, the right to terminate this special arrangement at any time and any other terms and conditions both parties wish to include.
- Employers might draft aletter to be signed by the employee to indicate acceptance of such an arrangement, stating that working from home shall not prevent or deprive the employee from any of legal rights prescribed under the applicable laws and regulations.
- SafetyRequirements: the employer must ensure that the same safety measurements that are applied at the premises of the company and the health and safety requirements prescribed under the applicable rules and regulations shall apply equally to homeworkers and other employees working in the offices.
As working from home is developing now due to the technologies available and companies in the Middle East are accepting this concept gradually, the employers must make sure to follow the requirements imposed by the applicable laws and regulations on the homeworkers, and it is preferable to contact the ministry of labor and inquire about any special rights and obligations for homeworkers in order to ensure that the company is not conducting any act which is illegal.
Hana Al-Khatib’s viewpoint from a personal level:
“I myself believe that working from home is an excellent option, especially for jobs that don’t require the manpower to be available at the company’s premises such as employees working in customer care (over the phone), consultancy, writing, research, translation, mobile sales representatives, computer programming, social media marketing, and many other jobs that are easy to finish through technological tools such as laptops, mobile phones, and tablets. This arrangement is beneficial for both the employer and the employee. As for the employee, it reduces commuting expenses (gas, parking, tires etc.) and eliminates long commutes, less distractions, more productivity, less stress, and save indirect expenses such as expensive professional clothes, dry cleaning and preschool for children.
In addition of being a beneficial arrangement for employees, allowing employees to work from home is advantageous to employers in many ways such as it reduces the overhead, turnover, and rent expenses. It also helps the company to participate in protecting the environment by communicating through email, video conference, telephones etc. and by reducing cars emissions.
Moreover, it is proven that working from home increases productivity levels. The employers benefit from this arrangement by hiring the best candidates without having any concern about geographical restrictions”.
Now as the editor of this article, I concluded all the ideas about the issue of “Working from Home” I have to add my note to this piece:
“I personally have a dream that was not achieved: being a full time worker spent my entire life in offices: from Palestine to Kuwait: In Kuwait facing the traffic jam while the heat struck the car, then working in Baghdad obliged me to drive a very long distance to reach office place and the hot weather was so bad.
Then back to Palestine during first “intifada” which forced me and all the workers, employees, and women farmers with their vegetables to sell in City: obliged the whole nation to cross to work through checkpoints and roads closures; to us at that time such was a challenge point against the occupation by reaching work sites even through mountains and valleys since this is form of struggle.
Then in Amman: my job required to leave the house by seven a.m. despite icy chilled weather or any other weather conditions.
I wish this method of working from home was introduced, and then surely I would choose this option to work from home. Although doing a job from home makes the employee lazy, resulting to postpone changing pajamas or taking a shower! Also deprive them from developing training skills and exchange ideas with their fellow colleagues; despite all that I wish I had the chance to work from home is an aim.
Finally, and to my astonishment, no one from the people I interviewed mentioned the importance of such kind of work being suitable for disables and handicapped people that exist in the community; securing a job from home for them would be an excellent and helpful opportunity”.