Employees in the Middle East and Africa have a new ‘worth it equation’ – here’s what they now want from work

Tired young woman works from home

The working world has reached yet another major inflection point. Businesses across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) have been “on the cusp” of hybrid work for more than a year. And now, leaders across the region find themselves with an entirely new challenge: the lived experience of hybrid work.

Each year, Microsoft’s Work Trend Index provides a data-driven analysis of our rapidly changing world. Combining insights from studies of thousands of people, trillions of productivity signals in Microsoft 365 and labor trends on LinkedIn, the Index has become a benchmark for organizations looking to thrive in an era of uncertainty.

Results from the 2022 Index confirm we are not the same people that went home to work in early 2020. The past two years have fundamentally changed how people, businesses and even governments view the role of work in our lives. In fact, just recently the UAE became the first country in the world to introduce a four-and-a-half-day workweek.

We have reached significant new milestones in working history and many people have taken the opportunity to reevaluate what’s important to them and what’s not. What employees want from work and what they are willing to give in return has changed. According to the 2022 Work Trend Index, this new phenomenon is called the “worth it equation”. And people who feel their employers are not balancing this equation are voting with their feet.

Employees are acting on newfound priorities and achieving a better-work life balance is one of their key considerations. In fact, it’s estimated more than half of professionals across the region are prioritizing a new job in 2022. People in MEA are among the most unhappy in the world, with employees indicating they are very stressed on a daily basis, and on evaluating their current lives, most feel they aren’t thriving.

As a result, new personal resolutions are emerging in the region’s workforce. Second only to saving money, employees are looking to exercise more, follow healthy diets and spend more time with friends and family. Some people also want to start taking more vacations.

In short, employees are increasingly going to prioritize their health and well-being over work. A rising number of people are actively looking for hybrid work and flexible schedules. Already some employees who have been told to return to the office full-time have quit. One of the biggest reasons for this is that people are tired of the unnecessary commute. Findings show employees are happier to stay home and spend more time with their families.

For employers in MEA meeting these new employee expectations will require a significant mindset shift. The challenge ahead for every organization is to adapt to changing employee priorities while still balancing business outcomes in an unpredictable economy.

Views of productivity are changing and no longer tied to e-mails sent or hours worked. In fact, according to the Work Trend Index, most employees feel it’s important for employers to reward impact over hours worked. Shifting focus from activities to impact is key to offering employees true flexibility.

To help businesses create a new, flexible operating model—spanning people, places, and processes—Microsoft has created a Hybrid Workplace Flexibility Guide. In it, leaders will find sample team agreements, templates, and tools for hybrid work. There are also detailed plans that encompass everything from strategies to keep employees healthy, to exact roadmaps for how to divide people’s time between a physical or remote workplace.

The Great Reshuffle is far from over. Employees everywhere have a new “worth it equation” and will actively seek out new employment if their current employer can’t meet their expectations. The best leaders will create a culture that embraces flexibility and prioritizes employee wellbeing—understanding that this is a competitive advantage to build a thriving organization and drive long-term growth.

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