Doha: Due to COVID-19 pandemic difficulties, flexible working is becoming increasingly accepted by businesses throughout the world. “Even before COVID-19, flexible working was becoming increasingly acceptable to many organisations,” said Director of Lulu Group International Dr Mohamed Althaf.
At the Commonwealth Trade and Investment Summit 2021, he spoke on “The Shape of the 21st-Century Workplace: New Challenges, New Opportunities” (CTIS), w with participation from all 54 Commonwealth nations, CTIS is a virtual Business to Government Summit.
Chairperson of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, Dr Joanna Newman, presided over the session. Participants included Ian Livingstone of London + Regional Properties and Dr Paul Noon of Coventry University, who is the university’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Innovation.
“Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employees’ needs, for example having flexible start and finish times, or working from home. This was driven by workforce globalisation and technologies that allow us to do our jobs anytime, anywhere,” said Dr Althaf. According to him, the desire to recruit and retain top personnel has also driven many businesses to provide more flexible working choices.
“COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this transition. Lockdown restrictions around the world meant that those who could have to work from home this has created challenges, opportunities, and problems.” Covid-19 compelled several organisations and employees to adopt an entirely flexible working structure, according to Dr Althaf. So, he added, there are now a number of obstacles that must be solved in order to ensure that this model works for all.
“Flexible work has been called ‘the way of the future, but in retail, where face-to-face customer interactions are a big component of the job, a flexible work environment with the option to work remotely is often not an option,” he added. Working from home may seem like a fantastic perk, but achieving a work-life balance is one of the biggest obstacles. People who find it difficult to detach work and home life at the end of the day are more stressed and anxious, says Dr Althaf.
“I believe some part of the retail jobs will become flexible to perform remotely. The boom in online retail has made location less important than talent,” Dr Althaf said. Instead of becoming a sales agent on the store floor, he added, one might be an online personal shopper or an online customer care representative. A sophisticated IT infrastructure allows employees to work from home and evaluate buying habits and sales trends using real-time data.