Reimagining the post-COVID office

With a score of 100 equaling ‘total proximity,’ the medical care profession came top at 87 and farming and construction was least proximate at 54. (Social media)
With a score of 100 equaling ‘total proximity,’ the medical care profession came top at 87 and farming and construction was least proximate at 54. (Social media)
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Updated 16 August 2021

Reimagining the post-COVID office

With a score of 100 equaling ‘total proximity,’ the medical care profession came top at 87 and farming and construction was least proximate at 54. (Social media)
  • Report says 20-25% advanced economy workforce can work from home

RIYADH: To say that the COVID-19 crisis has been a disruptor of working styles is an understatement. Virtually every job was impacted in some way, with many if not most employees shifting from office-based routines to work from home (WFH).

But now that the COVID situation is (hopefully) past its peak, are these changes permanent or will we return to the status quo ante?
A recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute — The future of work after COVID-19 — quantified the required physical proximity of workers in 10 different types of “worker arena.”
With a score of 100 equaling “total proximity,” the medical care profession came top at 87 and farming and construction was least proximate at 54. Computer-based office work — the largest work arena in advanced economies such as Saudi Arabia — is at 68, meaning that about one-third of this type of work can be completed remotely.
The McKinsey report concludes that 20-25 percent of the advanced economy workforce could potentially work from home three-to-five days a week. While that is unlikely to happen, the report found that employers in developed economies plan to reduce their post-COVID office space by an average of 30 percent. What does this mean for workers in the Kingdom? Kholoud Al-Mohammadi, an investment manager at FII Institute (Riyadh), told Arab News that “the pandemic forced a rapid uptake of online and app-based management and communication platforms.”
Employees had to quickly learn how to substitute Zoom or Microsoft Teams meetings for in-office interactions and presentations. The learning curve was steep but ultimately successful, with the result that most businesses were only nominally impacted by the pandemic in terms of staff productivity. That shift to online platforms is certainly here to stay.

WFH is more a community and culture initiative that would give somebody more flexibility within their role.
Ahmed Bondagji

But there is still a human need for physical interaction: The informal conversations, face-to-face contact and birthday celebrations that bring a workspace to life. As such, most employees will probably return to their physical office or have done so already, but often with an option of at least part-time WFH. “WFH is more a community and culture initiative that would give somebody more flexibility within their role,” Ahmed Bondagji, HR director (KSA) at L’Oréal told Arab News. “So eventually we’re all going to come back to the office, but it would be nice to have one optional day at home per week.”
The working environment is also likely to see some changes. The pandemic has raised awareness about hygiene and personal space, and this — along with mandatory health and safety standards — must be key when planning the post-COVID office. Some companies — led by US tech giants such as Salesforce and Spotify — have taken advantage of the temporary WFH situation to completely overhaul their interiors with these factors in mind.

An office redesign allows for creative use of space. Whereas cubicles were previously “corralled,” they can now be more spread out, with greater utilization of corners — giving workers a greater sense of individual territory. The “hot desk” concept can also be applied, for example by allocating one section of an open office to a department, with members of that department using any available desk.
Bondagji also sees the co-working space as at least a medium-term solution in the post-COVID world.
“It’s a very agile option that a lot of non-HQ or remote locations have shifted to,” he said. “We can use the co-working office for a meeting, or contract for a certain number of hours, and the area is continually sanitized and fully within COVID precautions.”
While most organizations will not fully shift to co-working spaces, they do offer a flexible and often cheaper alternative to the permanent office.
The key takeaway here is that both employees and employers need to remain open-minded about their arrangements. From the worker’s point of view, employers must be more proactive regarding staff wellbeing and WFH should be at least a part-time option; and from the employer’s perspective, staff need to adapt to change — in terms of both working methods and physical locations.
The COVID-19 crisis may be easing, but occasional disruption is a fact of life, and everybody has to live with that.

 


PIF governor and BlackRock’s CEO leads discussions on ESG in emerging markets in FII’s first regional summit

PIF governor and BlackRock’s CEO leads discussions on ESG in emerging markets in FII’s first regional summit
Updated 12 sec ago

PIF governor and BlackRock’s CEO leads discussions on ESG in emerging markets in FII’s first regional summit

PIF governor and BlackRock’s CEO leads discussions on ESG in emerging markets in FII’s first regional summit

RIYADH: The Future Investment Initiative Foundation will host its first ever regional summit on Friday, in Rosewood London, England, entitled Inclusive Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance in Emerging Markets.

The most prominent participants in the event include the FII Chairman and Governor of the Public Investment Fund, Yasser Al-Rumayyan, Egypt’s Minister of Environment, Yasmine Fouad and Blackrock CEO Larry Fink.

The summit will bring together international investors, world leaders, thought leaders, policy makers, global CEOs, and chiefs of sustainability to discuss and shape the future of ESG, particularly in emerging markets.

“The planet has major problems with climate, with destruction of nature, peace and security. But we also have tremendous resources, including our common humanity,” Executive Director of the FII Institute, Richard Attias said.

“We believe that ESG is an important tool to bring us together and channel capital to meet these challenges,” he said.

Using ESG standards to make investment decisions is a global boom, with assets expected to reach $53 trillion, about a third of global assets under management, by 2025, a statement showed.

Still, the lack of a framework for the effective implementation of ESG in emerging economies represent a stumbling block for investors. 

The FII says it will finally have the tool needed to develop sustainable investment strategies in these markets, through its proprietary measurement framework, developed in collaboration with investors, global companies, and FII’s strategic partners.

The Foundation works to impact humanity across four focus areas: artificial intelligence, robotics, education, health care, and sustainability.

The event is part of a series of events hosted by the Foundation, which will culminate in the sixth edition of the annual FII Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in October.


China’s April Saudi oil imports soar 38 percent on year, Russian oil up 4 percent

China’s April Saudi oil imports soar 38 percent on year, Russian oil up 4 percent
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Updated 50 min 16 sec ago

China’s April Saudi oil imports soar 38 percent on year, Russian oil up 4 percent

China’s April Saudi oil imports soar 38 percent on year, Russian oil up 4 percent

China’s crude oil imports from top supplier Saudi Arabia soared 38 percent in April from a year earlier, hitting the highest monthly volume since May 2020, according to Reuters’ calculations based on official Chinese customs data.

Saudi shipments amounted to 8.93 million tons last month, equivalent to 2.17 million barrels per day, according to data from the Chinese General Administration of Customs.

The hefty purchases, with trades completed mostly in February, compare with 1.61 million bpd in March and 1.57 million bpd a year earlier.

Imports from second-largest supplier Russia rose a more modest 4 percent last month from a year earlier, with cargoes booked before western governments toughened sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February.

Russian oil arrivals in April totalled 6.55 million tons, or 1.59 million bpd, data showed, up slightly from 1.5 million bpd in March and 1.53 million bpd a year earlier.

China’s overall crude oil imports last month rose nearly 7 percent on the year, its first rise in three months, although widespread COVID-19 lockdowns crimped fuel demand and dampened refinery output.

Friday’s data showed zero imports in April from Iran. However, customs next month is likely to report for May the import of nearly 2 million barrels of Iranian oil that was being discharged this week into a reserve base in south China.

Despite US sanctions on Iran, China has kept taking Iranian oil passed off as supplies from other countries. The import levels are roughly equivalent to 7 percent of China’s total crude oil imports.

Iranian oil, often priced lower than competing grades, have squeezed out rival supplies such as from Brazil and West Africa.

Customs reported zero imports from Venezuela, as state oil firms shunned purchases since late 2019 for fear of falling afoul of secondary US sanctions.

Imports from Malaysia, often used as a transfer point in the last two years for oil originating from Iran and Venezuela, jumped 84 percent on year to 2.165 million tons, the second highest on record.


Saudi tourism ministry signs deals to boost localization program

 Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism signs two agreements. (Twitter/@Saudi_MT)
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism signs two agreements. (Twitter/@Saudi_MT)
Updated 20 May 2022

Saudi tourism ministry signs deals to boost localization program

 Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism signs two agreements. (Twitter/@Saudi_MT)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism has signed two agreements to enhance joint cooperation and support training and localization programs to qualify those wishing to work in the hospitality sector.
The move, which aims to support workers in the food, beverage and accommodation sectors, in support of achieving the Kingdom’s’ tourism human capacity development strategy.
Bandar bin Mohammed Al-Safir, director general of training and localization at the ministry, stressed that these two agreements aim to develop human resources in the tourism sector through quality training programs that will contribute to developing localized skills in the tourism sector.
Under the two agreements, which were signed with Kempinski Al-Othman Hotel and Carlton Al-Moaibed Hotel, the ministry will support dualifying Saudi nationals in the tourism sector within the “Your Future has Arrived” initiative.


Venture capital and microfinance firms should focus on startups, says Al Ahli Holding Group CEO

Venture capital and microfinance firms should focus on startups, says Al Ahli Holding Group CEO
Updated 19 May 2022

Venture capital and microfinance firms should focus on startups, says Al Ahli Holding Group CEO

Venture capital and microfinance firms should focus on startups, says Al Ahli Holding Group CEO

DUBAI: Mohamed Khammas, CEO of Al Ahli Holding Group, said that startup businesses are an excellent opportunity for investment in venture capital funds and microfinance banks.

During an interview with Arab News at the Top CEO event in Dubai, Khammas Mohamed Khammas, CEO of Al Ahli Holding Group, highlighted that startups are a good investment idea because the “ticket size is smaller, and the product ranges are higher.”

Khammas pointed out the risks that arise for startups are not in their early stages but rather when they become successful.

“The challenge is not when they’re trying to have a major impact on the economy; the problems occur when they become successful. All of those are calculated risks,” he said.

Khammas continued to add that regardless of these risks, investing in new, innovative startups is “absolutely the best opportunity.”

Also, during his talk at the event, Khammas  urged banks to fund new and innovative products and ideas in the area after he shed light on how banks are hesitant to invest in creative ideas.


Futurist says ‘virtual economies are already worth $130 billion'

Futurist says ‘virtual economies are already worth $130 billion'
Updated 20 May 2022

Futurist says ‘virtual economies are already worth $130 billion'

Futurist says ‘virtual economies are already worth $130 billion'
  • Investing in video games more rewarding than Metaverse: Raford

DUBAI: Even though the business world is increasingly fascinated by the Metaverse, Noah Raford, futurist-in-chief and chief of Global Affairs at Dubai Future Foundation, claimed games, Web3 and virtual economies is where the smart money is.

While speaking at the Top CEO event in Dubai, Raford argued that people should invest in video games, as it is the only successful digital economy so far.
In a statement to Arab News a day after the event, he said: “The metaverse has extraordinary potential and Dubai is moving rapidly to take advantage of it. Virtual assets and digital economies are a huge growth area. There is a lot of hype and wasted investment, but the best examples at the moment are video games and in-game virtual economies – especially connected to NFTs & Web3.”
Fady Kassatly, partner of Enterprise Solutions and Cloud, KPMG, said the Metaverse is nothing but the next evolution, which will make people live differently.

He also added the Metaverse is going to evolve quickly in different directions, and this is just the beginning of the journey.

On his part, Philippe Blanchard, founder of Futurous, stated the Metaverse will change the relationship between humans and nature.

Predicting an inevitable Metaverse future, Valerie Hawley, director of Sorbonne Center for Artificial Intelligence, said every business will look at the Metaverse space and consider using it in the coming years.

She also added the Metaverse is a projection of the world that humans would like to live in.