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Dubai ranked most overworked city in the world

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Employees have experienced the benefits of hybrid work firsthand and many have expectations for it to continue

Dubai is the most overworked city in the world, according to a new global report out this week – but a workplace culture expert said this could be due to the type of workers the emirate traditionally attracts.

Kisi, a New York-based cloud-based security systems provider, looked at the work-life balance in 100 global cities.

Those ranked at the top and with the best quality of life were Oslo, Bern, Helsinki, Zurich and Copenhagen.

However, those deemed to be home to the most overworked residences were Dubai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Monteideo in Uruguay.

The report found that Dubai ranked high for levels of safety, happiness and the government’s management of the coronavirus pandemic, and low for levels of inflation.

Earlier this month, the latest S&P Global UAE Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) found that many businesses have been forced to increase prices and reduce staff levels, as costs rose to their highest levels for more than three years in the UAE non-oil sector, putting even more pressure on employees to work harder.

Despite Dubai’s high ranking, a global survey by technology company Cisco found that just 56 percent of respondents in the UAE said there needed to be more emphasis on employee wellness and work-life balance.

Dawn Metcalfe, a Dubai-based workplace culture advisor, said the low percentage rate to the Cisco survey could be due to the type of workers Dubai generally attracts.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable to say a city has a work-life balance issue but it’s certainly true that individuals and organisations often do,” Metcalfe, who is managing director of PDSi MEA, said.

“Part of this is a result of the kind of people who come here – they are often young and ambitious and driven to work hard as they build their lives and careers. That’s a decision they make.

“But it’s certainly true that some organisations have a culture of overworking and presenteeism, leading employees to feel obliged to put in the hours even if, in fact, there’s no need for them to do so in order to hit their KPIs and get the results they’ve been hired to achieve.”

The Cisco global survey focused on employees’ attitudes to hybrid work and a poll of 1,050 full-time staff across the UAE discovered almost 90 percent want to work either in a hybrid or fully remote working model in the future.

The survey found that while staff in the UAE are keen to adopt the new way of working brought about as a result of lockdown policies during the pandemic, just 28 percent of respondents said their companies were “fully prepared” to adopt such an operational model going forward.

“Employees have experienced the benefits of hybrid work firsthand and many have expectations for it to continue,” Reem Asaad, vice president, Cisco Middle East and Africa, said.

“While most organisations in the UAE recognise the importance of flexible working, there remain opportunities for further improvement.

“A successful, future-ready hybrid model must, in equal measure, deliver secure connectivity from anywhere, while also maintaining trust, wellbeing and unity among highly distributed teams.”

While the Cisco survey found that 68 percent of those questioned said their manager trusted them to be productive when working remotely, Metcalfe said this is often not always the case across the board.

“I know of one multinational which has insisted all their people come back to the office full-time in Dubai when that isn’t the case in their other locations – this comes down to a lack of trust in their people, which is infuriating – if you don’t trust your people to work virtually without a manager breathing down their neck then fire them and work out how to improve your hiring practices,” Metcalfe said.