Middle East Businesses and Employees at Odds Over Workplace Innovation

Almost all (81%) of survey respondents in the Middle East believe their organization is more innovative if employees are in the office, according to research unveiled today by VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW), a leading innovator in enterprise software.

The study, “The Distributed Work Dilemma: When Innovation and Job Satisfaction Compete,” conducted by Vanson Bourne on behalf of VMware, highlights how survey respondent’s views on where they feel they are most innovative are at odds with where they would prefer to work, with 82% of respondents in the Middle East having higher job satisfaction if they can work from home. In addition, more than half (56%) of EMEA respondents with anywhere and hybrid working policies, where they can work in an office and remotely, report increased morale, creativity (52%), and collaboration (53%) within their teams since prior to the pandemic. ​

With growing economic uncertainty, business leaders could be driving employees back into the office with hope that it will enable greater employee innovation and productivity, but with little certainty on its real benefit. In fact, a higher percentage of organizations with anywhere- and hybrid-work policies have formal metrics in place to track innovation and its impact on the business and employees. Nearly all organizations in the EMEA region with an anywhere work policy (97%) have metrics in place to monitor innovation levels versus 82% of those with an office-only policy.

“Greater economic uncertainty is propelling businesses to become even more focused on innovation and productivity, but this shouldn’t be at the expense of all the progress made in developing more flexible working practices,” said Shankar Iyer, senior vice president, and general manager, End-User Computing, VMware. “Research has shown that allowing hybrid work creates happier, more engaged, and more collaborative teams, which can naturally lead to increased productivity. Employees believe they can achieve their best work when given the choice of hybrid working, combined with the tools to support this, yet business leaders believe the office is where innovation is driven. Our research suggests that more companies need to deploy formal metrics to measure impact to ensure perception does not outweigh reality. Those with hybrid working policies are clearly taking this very seriously.”

Over the next 12 months, the vast majority (83%) of Middle East organizations surveyed are planning to invest significantly more in their digital culture, and more than a third (38%) are prioritizing investments that fuel innovation and creativity. Driving innovation to create business efficiencies, cut costs, or increase market attractiveness is clearly a business imperative.

Automation and digital tools are helping organizations do more with less. Among businesses where investment in automation has increased, half (56%) of businesses in the Middle East are investing in automation to help increase employee experience and productivity. Additionally, 51% are looking for automation to help accelerate innovation, while 53% seek to create faster and lower-cost operations. The highest levels of investment are concentrated amongst organizations with hybrid- or anywhere-work policies versus those with office-only policies. This suggests that business innovation and productivity must be prioritised, but not at the expense of working location flexibility.

Iyer adds, “The mythical inflection point where all employees are office-based is not guaranteed to happen. Companies must continue to strike the right balance between boosting innovation without crushing employee motivation and productivity. By investing in digital collaboration tools, automation, and team-building policies, business leaders can drive efficiencies and boost success while still offering the flexibility of office or remote working.”

Workplace innovation is one of many topics touched on in The Distributed Work Dilemma: When Innovation and Job Satisfaction Compete. Other key findings include:

  • Power Shifts Between Employers and Employees: While the Great Resignation and near-universal talent shortages have put employees in the driver’s seat in recent months, the current economic climate is adding a layer of tumult to employer-employee power dynamics – with employers beginning to have the upper hand.
  • Large Talent Gaps and Increasing Turnover: Despite an overall increase in job satisfaction over the past two years, all sectors, departments, and regions are experiencing talent shortages. And turnover within cybersecurity teams is especially high.
  • Automation Facilitates Anywhere and Hybrid Work: Technology – and more specifically, automation – investments are critical for reducing burnout and facilitating the collaboration necessary to maintain innovation, even in a distributed environment.

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