By Majd Othman

KUWAIT: Working online or remotely is a system that many companies in Kuwait refuse to implement for their employees, despite the great benefits this could bring to the companies in increasing employees' productivity or reducing major costs, such as rent. Aref Abdullah Al-Ajmi, a human resource expert, explained the reason behind companies rejecting this system, pointing out that weak performance standards and the desire to control employees are the main reasons behind this.

"Companies in Kuwait have a lack of confidence that employees will perform their work perfectly if they work remotely, although companies are supposed to have a system to monitor employee productivity. Since most companies do it, it will be a problem for them. The second reason is that many companies in Kuwait like to control their employees, as the company wants to see the employees every day at the office, for no reason," Ajmi explained.

"The general pattern in the country, whether in the public or private sector, is that evaluation only depends on the employee's attendance at work, whether the employee performs their job or not. As for the achievement part, it is a separate matter with a different assessment. The part of attending work in Kuwait could be the decisive factor in the relationship between the employee and the company in both sectors," Ajmi said.

Ajmi pointed out the private sector in Kuwait is greatly affected by the pattern of work in the public sector. Most officials working in the private sector have come from a government work environment. "Therefore, we find that many evaluation policies and work systems in private companies are similar to the public sector. As evidence of this, Kuwait is the only country in the world whose banking sector closes for a whole week when the public sector closes for the same period," he said.

"COVID proved to us many things in the business sector, including that the private sector suffers from a large number of employees who are not needed in companies, as the case is in the government sector. I do not exaggerate when I say that many private sector companies were able to manage very well with only 40 percent of their employees," Ajmi claimed.

Regarding implementing online work at large, medium or small companies, Ajmi said the prevailing belief of corporate management is that small companies can work remotely easier because the number of employees they have is limited, so it is easy to follow-up with them continuously. "That is partly true, so many small companies closed their offices and relied entirely on working from home or via the Internet. In addition to the fact that most owners of small companies are from the new generation, so it is easier for them to accept a new method of work, especially since circumstances forced them to do so," he said.

"As for big companies, the large number of employees makes it difficult to follow-up with them on a continuous basis. Meanwhile, the acceptance of these companies for their employees to work remotely is slower and harder, especially for companies that have been in the market for more than 70 years, not to mention that as long as these companies have the solvency to pay rent, they will not change to work remotely, as their mentality is to stick to the idea that it is better to physically be in the company," Ajmi argued.

"It is a psychological and cultural issue, and the biggest proof of this is that the largest companies in the world have announced transformation to remote work. Companies' experience in Kuwait with employees working remotely during the pandemic was excellent, because productivity was very high among employees, as much time is wasted every day to reach work in traffic jams. In addition, the employee works in their own comfort zone. Companies noted that most employees were more cooperative even after their working hours were over," Ajmi said.

"Despite the positive experience during the pandemic, we have to note that we had a curfew at that time. Most employees had more free time during the day. But now, working remotely can face obstacles in terms of employee discipline due to the less free time they have. So to implement this system, it must be followed by commitment and discipline from by them and certain controls," he said.

"Therefore, it must be taken into account that shifting to remote work must be evaluated away from the experience of the pandemic period, because at that time there were many jobs that were suspended as a result of the closures in the country and there was no need to do many tasks that needed employees to be present. If the same evaluation procedure was adopted during the pandemic, this means that there is definitely a defect in the evaluation process," Ajmi told Kuwait Times.

From a social angle, Ajmi said it is not a positive system that can be adopted as employees are humans who need social networking, unless if the companies implement the international system that gives employees the opportunity to choose a specific day in the week to work at the office and work remotely during other days, while the company will not lose communication with them. "International companies were able to implement this system because they have clear performance standards and assessments, which we in Kuwait lack," he concluded.